Utah-San Diego St. Preview
After claiming its second Mountain West regular-season
championship, No. 7 San Diego State turns its attention to
defending the conference tournament title.
That quest begins Thursday night as the second-seeded Aztecs try
for a fifth consecutive win over a seventh-seeded Utah team that
could be without its best player in Las Vegas.
San Diego State (29-2, 14-2), which transferred from the Western
Athletic Conference in 1999, is coming off the best regular season
in school history and earned a share of the MWC regular-season
title for the first time since winning it outright in 2005-06.
The Aztecs won the conference tournament that season and also
accomplished the feat last year, a result they’re hoping to
“Before the season we all set goals as a team, and this is
something we can check off on our checklist, winning the league
championship,” senior guard D.J. Gay said after Saturday’s 66-48
victory over Colorado State. “It’s been a great season. It’s been a
magical one so far. But we know it’s not over yet. We take this in
and enjoy the moment, but tomorrow comes and it’s on to the
Gay is second on the team with 11.7 points per game but has
averaged 8.3 over the last four games while shooting 27.3 percent,
including 6 of 29 from 3-point range. He totaled eight points on
2-of-14 shooting in San Diego State’s only two losses – both to
eighth-ranked BYU – but those teams wouldn’t meet again until the
Kawhi Leonard led the Aztecs on Saturday with 17 points and 12
rebounds. The sophomore ranks fourth in the country and first in
the conference with 21 double-doubles.
Leonard, who averaged 14.3 points and 13.0 rebounds during last
season’s MWC tournament run, joins Gay on the 2010 all-conference
first team while Utah’s Will Clyburn was voted to the second
Clyburn, tied for second in the conference with 17.0 points per
game, is uncertain to play due to a contusion on his right heel.
The junior swingman went 0 of 6 from the floor and failed to score
before sitting out the second half of Saturday’s 78-58 loss to
“We’ll see how he feels when he warms up,” said coach Jim Boylen
of Clyburn, averaging a team-best 7.8 rebounds. “He wants to play
and be a part of this week. He is in pain. It’s a difficult injury.
The only thing that will heal this injury is time, and
unfortunately at this point in the year, we don’t have time.”
San Diego State has won four straight in this series, with
Leonard averaging 15.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. Gay has averaged
16.5 points in two meetings this season and helped the Aztecs hand
the Utes their most lopsided defeat in the last matchup, 85-53 on
Utah (13-17, 6-10) last defeated the Aztecs 52-50 in the 2009
tournament championship game.
San Diego State certainly won’t take this game lightly even
though the Utes have lost seven straight to Top 25 opponents by an
average of 16.4 points.
“Utah has a very proud storied program,” said Aztecs coach Steve
Fisher, the 2010 MWC co-coach of the year. “We have beaten them
twice this year, they will come in forgetting about all the
frustrations of losing games, close games, losing this and say ‘we
can win three games, we can cut nets down and we can go to the NCAA
tournament.’ Trust me when I tell you, that’s the attitude they
will have and so will we.”