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Thames leads San Diego State to OT win

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LOGAN, Utah — Xavier Thames did exactly what great players do in hostile arenas. The San Diego State senior point guard made plays at the right time.

The Aztecs know they can count on their leading scorer to deliver the goods when one or two possessions stand between a win and a loss. That was certainly the case against Utah State on Saturday night.

Thames had 31 points and scored the go-ahead basket in overtime to lift No. 7 San Diego State to a 17th straight win with a 74-69 victory over the Aggies.

Thames scored 10 points during overtime to help the Aztecs secure their 16th win in their last 17 overtime games.

He downplayed his dominating role after the game, crediting his teammates with making an equal number of plays down the stretch.

“This was a good team win,” Thames said. “That’s what championship teams do. We stuck with it.”

Guard Spencer Butterfield scored 19 points and forward Jalen Moore added a career-high 16 points for the Aggies, who suffered just their second home loss of the season.

Butterfield hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and promptly drained another one to put Utah State up 62-61 with 3:03 left in OT.

Thames halted the comeback when he drained a jumper that put San Diego State ahead for good with 1:50 left and made a 3-pointer with 49.6 seconds to give the Aztecs a 66-62 lead.

“He seems like he can’t miss any night,” Aztecs junior forward J.J. O’Brien said. “He had huge plays down the stretch. He saved us. He’s been saving us. He doesn’t just score. He dishes and he plays defense. He does everything. We’re blessed to have him as a point guard.”

San Diego State made 8 of 10 free throws in the final 38.9 seconds to seal the victory.

“We’ll find a way to pull together,” Butterfield said. “If you lose, you have two choices. You can lay down and give up or you can keep fighting. And this team will keep fighting.”

Utah State rallied before halftime and turned up the heat from outside in the second half.

Guard Preston Medlin and Butterfield drained 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to help the Aggies tie the score at 32.

Utah State was just getting started. The Aggies followed by scoring baskets on three straight possessions and took a 42-40 lead with 12:55 left on back-to-back 3-pointers from Medlin.

San Diego State tied it 48-48 on a 3-pointer from Thames with 8:57 left. But Utah State went back in front with two quick baskets, taking a 52-48 lead when guard Marcel Davis stole the ball and fed Moore with 7:47 remaining.

“Our guys played really hard and we hit some big shots,” Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we’ve got to find a way to win games like this in league. It’s a tough loss.”

The Aztecs went 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal down the stretch before Davis broke the ice and tied score at 52 on a jumper with 3:27 left. Davis put San Diego State back in front when he scored another basket to make it 55-54 with 1:50 left.

San Diego State seemed in a good position to escape regulation with a close win after Thames made two free throws with 16.1 seconds left. Butterfield spoiled those hopes by burying a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to force overtime.

San Diego State missed 10 of its first 12 shots from the field to open the game, but poor shooting did not stop the Aztecs from keeping pace with the Aggies early.

Smothering defense kept Utah State from finding its own offensive rhythm throughout the first half. The Aztecs forced Utah State into seven turnovers — with five coming on steals.

San Diego State also dominated the offensive glass with a 10-5 edge before halftime. The Aztecs made the most of it, outscoring Utah State 13-6 in second-chance points.

“We had the ability the rebound the ball and we had the ability to get to the free throw line,” San Diego State coach

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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