LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – Playing the Mountain West Tournament title game less than 16 hours after it won its semifinal matchup, the Utah State basketball team ran out of steam Saturday afternoon and lost to #20 San Diego State, 62-57.

This was Utah State’s fourth appearance in the championship game of the Mountain West tournament in the last five years, all against the Aztecs. This is the third time SDSU has beaten Utah State this season.

“They’ve got a dynamite team,” USU head coach Ryan Odom said about the Aztecs. “They’re very tough. They’re very deep. They’re very physical. They just have a well-rounded bunch. And they keep coming at you, and their guys play off each other really well.”

The Aggies, the fourth best three-point shooting team in the nation, made just 4-of-24 shots from beyond the arc. Neither team shot well Saturday, with San Diego State making 33.3% of its shots compared to 37.1% for the Aggies.

Playing its third game in 40 hours may have contributed to the poor offensive performance.

“Yeah, there’s definitely elements,” said USU guard Steven Ashworth. I think the fact of the matter is they also played three games in that same sort of span and at the same time I credit a lot of it to our defense. I think our defense is really what helps propel our offense a lot of times to play up pace and get in transition and when we’re not securing those shots on the defensive end, the first chance we get it’s hard to get out and run and really get our pace.”

Utah State (26-8) had it 7-game winning streak snapped, but is still virtually assured of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the teams are announced on Sunday.

“It would be great,” Odom said about an NCAA Tournament invite. “We hope we’re in. We don’t know. We’ll wait till Sunday, tomorrow, and figure it out. We know we’re going to be playing another game. We know that.”

Ashworth led the Aggies with 13 points and two steals. Trevin Dorius also hit double figures with 12 points alongside seven rebounds. Dan Akin posted a team-high eight rebounds with seven points off the bench, while Funk added seven rebounds and a career-high-tying three blocks. Funk, senior guard Sean Bairstow and Max Shulga tied for the team lead with three assists apiece.

Matt Bradley led SDSU with 16 points, while Jaedon Ledee added 13. The Aztecs (27-6) claimed their seventh tournament title, and second in three years. This also was their conference-record 15th appearance in the title game.

The Aggies started strong in the first half with an early 12-3 run to take early command of the contest. USU’s lead grew to as many as 11 following a corner three from Zee Hamoda with seven minutes remaining in the first half. The Aztecs, however, closed the half on a 13-3 run to trim Utah State’s advantage to a single point entering intermission at 29-28.

After several alternating baskets to start the second half, a 13-2 run from SDSU put the Aggies into chase-down mode, trailing by eight points with less than 10 minutes remaining. As they have on numerous occasions this season, Utah State responded, going on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to a single possession.

After exchanging baskets for several minutes, Taylor Funk narrowly missed putting USU in front via a 3-pointer before the basket was waved off after review of the shot clock expiring. San Diego State sank two free throws on their ensuing possession to again push the lead beyond one possession.

The Aggies attempted a furious comeback in the final minute, clawing back from a seven-point deficit and forcing a turnover to take possession trailing 53-50 with 48 seconds remaining. USU missed the game-tying three on the following possession, however, and the Aggies never again held possession with a chance to tie the game.

Utah State is now 2-2 in MW Championship games, all against San Diego State in the last five seasons, and is 10-8 all-time in tournament championship games. 

Ashworth and Funk were also named to the MW all-tournament team. SDSU forward Matt Bradley was named the tournament’s MVP.

The Aggies now will rest up for Selection Sunday.

“I think we gotta sleep,” Ashworth said. “Gotta go home, get some sleep, and then get our treatment in, get our bodies right, and then our minds will be right. I am very confident in the collective toughness that our team has to get ready for our next game, whoever it may be, wherever we have to travel. But sleep is a huge one.”