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Utah Utes basketball notebook: Loss follows all-too-familiar pattern

Utah's Luka Drca (5) shoots over the block of San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday.
Utah's Luka Drca (5) shoots over the block of San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday.
Denis Poroy, Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — For the Utah basketball team, Saturday night's 68-61 loss to San Diego State was an all-too familiar scenario that has been replayed over and over again in its frustrating season.

The Utes spotted the Aztecs an eight-point lead in the opening minutes of the game, fell behind by 12 points in the second half, made a furious comeback to take the lead, then failed to make big plays down the stretch and lost.

"It just keeps happening," said freshman guard Marshall Henderson. "You grind it and come back on the road once again. It's tough to play your hearts out and grind, grind, grind and to have that happen at the end, is tough on the heart."

"It comes down to the same thing, making shots and rebounding," said Jay Watkins. "It's been the story of the season."

The Utes were also hurt by a long drought in the first half similar to last month's loss in Salt Lake. In the earlier game, Utah went seven and a half minutes without making a basket, missing 13 shots and making three turnovers. The only point during the dreadful stretch was a single free throw by Watkins.

The same thing happened Saturday as the Utes, after tying the game at 25-25, couldn't score a basket over the final 6:03 of the half, missing six shots and committing five turnovers, including four straight to finish the half. Their only point during the awful spell was a single free throw by Watkins.

REMATCH: There's a good chance the Utes may be playing the Aztecs again next month in the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

The Utes are sixth in the standings at (5-7), while the Aztecs are third at (9-4), meaning that the two teams could meet up in the 3 vs. 6 game.

There's also a chance that the Utes could move up to No. 5 ahead of Colorado State and that the Aztecs could fall behind UNLV, putting the two in the 4 vs. 5 game.

One thing is pretty certain, the Utes will either be facing San Diego State or UNLV in the first round of the tournament.

GAME NOTES: The last time the Aztecs swept Utah in a season series was way back in 1982 when the Utes lost in San Diego 75-62 and 74-72 in Salt Lake ... David Foster had four blocks to tie UNLV's Joel Anthony for second place on the MWC season list for blocked shots at 109 ... Utah was called for 24 fouls compared to 12 for SDSU and was 9-for-12 at the line compared to 20-for-33 for SDSU ... Utah leads the overall series 53-15 after Saturday's loss ... Since Steve Fisher took over a decade ago, the Aztecs are 7-17 against Utah.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com