It was billed as the biggest basketball game in San Diego State history and one of the most-anticipated sporting events ever played in San Diego.

So if you’re a life-long San Diego sports fan, I probably don’t need to tell you what transpired when the No. 6 Aztecs hosted No. 7 Brigham Young on Saturday afternoon.

The Aztecs did what the San Diego Chargers typically do in the playoffs – melt under the big-game atmosphere and limp out of the building with a defeat.

Yeah, that awful San Diego sports tradition keeps arising at the worst possible times.

The Aztecs suffered an 80-67 loss to hot-shooting Brigham Young and the end result of the Cougars’ victory is this: San Diego State is without question only the second-best team in the Mountain West Conference.

There’s no disputing that fact with the Cougars having defeated the Aztecs by 13 points in both meetings this season.

Saturday’s loss hurts even more since it was televised on CBS, giving the nation its first real look at the Aztecs. That makes for one very painful defeat.

“If it doesn’t burn and hurt, then something’s wrong with them,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said of his players. “That’s all they will be thinking about tonight.”

BYU remains in the running for a No. 1 seed in next month’s NCAA tournament and looks capable of a deep postseason run. The Aztecs played in a fashion that makes you wonder if they will be sent packing in the second round of March Madness.

“We played OK; BYU played better,” Fisher said. “They are a really, really good basketball team and they showed that again today. This isn’t the first time they showed it.”

Yeah, we know Coach. The Cougars also showed that during their 71-58 victory over the Aztecs in Provo on Jan. 26. BYU has defeated the Aztecs in seven of the last eight meetings.

But this time was supposed to be different in the tough atmosphere of Viejas Arena and the rabid student section roaring at rock-concert noise levels.

San Diego State was supposed to avenge its lone defeat of the season and display to the nation that it will be a legitimate factor in next month’s NCAA tournament.

And just as a victory would have been a program-defining moment for the Aztecs, it also was a pretty big deal for BYU.

“By the way the guys responded in the locker room after the game, this was a big win,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Everybody appreciated the fact that this game meant something.”

The Cougars were hotter than lava from 3-point range by making 14-of-24 3-point attempts. BYU’s only deficit was 2-0.

BYU star Jimmer Fredette had 25 points and nine assists and received plenty of help from the supporting cast. Charles Abouo had 18 points and made four 3-pointers, Noah Hartsock scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Jackson Emery had 13 points.

Fredette was overly giddy as the final seconds wound down as the Cougars improved to 27-2 and 13-1 in Mountain West play. The Aztecs drop to 27-2 and 12-2.

“We were just really, really excited to win this game,” Fredette said. “Two top teams and they haven’t lost at home. Everybody was picking San Diego State to win. We came in as underdogs and really battled to get the win.”

San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and 13 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season but Malcolm Thomas (nine points) and D.J. Gay (six points) were a combined 5-of-17 from the field.

“We’re very disappointed at the outcome of the game,” said Gay, who has made just 2 of 14 shots in the two losses to BYU. “They played better. We have to go back and learn from it and hopefully get another shot at them.”

The Cougars and Aztecs could face each other again in the Mountain West Conference postseason tournament. San Diego State will have the tougher road to the championship game as the likely No. 2 seed because that positioning would likely include a semifinal matchup against host UNLV.

For now, all the Aztecs can do is concentrate on finishing the regular season strong. A 27-2 record is nothing to be ashamed of and San Diego State’s season will be defined by what happens in the NCAA tournament.

Remember, San Diego State has never won an NCAA tournament game in its history.

“This is as good a team as we’ve played since I’ve been at BYU,” Rose said of the Aztecs. “We played a North Carolina team in Vegas a couple years ago that ended up winning the national championship …

“I’m really impressed with everything they have. That frontline is as good as any in the country.”

Rose certainly means his comments but there is no doubt that BYU has the better team. The Cougars have shown that twice this season — including Saturday in the most anticipated San Diego State home game ever.


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