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SAN DIEGO — Utah's 85-53 loss at sixth-ranked San Diego State was among the most lopsided outcomes in program history. In the modern era, only a 42-point setback at Purdue in 1988 ranks worse.

The Utes (10-14, 3-7) fell quickly Tuesday night and could never get up. They trailed 48-21 at halftime and by as many as 34 points in the second half.

"We never could quite settle down," said Utah coach Jim Boylen. "And they kept bringing it at us."

Utah gave up 50 points in the paint and 23 off of turnovers.

"We got off to such a bad start and then guys got tentative and a little bit reluctant," Boylen explained. "I thought we reacted to the crowd."

Five of the Utes in the playing group, he noted, had never played at Viejas Arena before, and his team struggled. A sellout crowd of 12,414 was on hand as the Aztecs won their 17th consecutive home game. An enthusiastic student section provided a rowdy atmosphere and biting chants like "show no mercy," "Boylen's fired," and "You should transfer."

All in all, not a real good day for the Utes.

"We didn't respond and it was embarrassing," said Utah center David Foster. "We've got to move on. You don't know how sick we are of saying that. You know, if we don't then we are going to keep getting punched in the mouth."

Utah carries a four-game losing skid into Saturday's rivalry game at BYU. The Utes have struggled mightily during the slide. They're shooting just 50.7 percent from the free-throw line and 37.8 percent from the field.

"Our quality of opponents have been very good, but I don't know why we're not making free throws. I don't know why we're not making layups and open shots," Boylen said. "I don't know why. I just keep evaluating and keep working at it."

What concerns Boylen most is the quality of shots and turnovers.

"Those are things that I think I have to really evaluate," he said.

The Utes have turned the ball over 56 times over the past four games and have missed 138 shots from the field and 33 from the foul line.

"We've had a lot of empty possessions," Boylen said. "And we've got to try to stop that."

Failing to finish at the rim and make open shots have contributed to other shortcomings.

Utah has been outscored 136-92 in the paint during the current losing streak. The Utes have also come up in short in points off of turnovers (61-24), second-chance scoring (47-28), fast break points (32-8) and bench production (83-46).

e-mail: dirk@desnews.com