SAN DIEGO — Nine minutes of futility rendered 31 minutes of resilience irrelevant as BYU played its first game at San Diego State in eight years on Saturday.
The Cougars committed a season-high 18 turnovers — 14 of them in the first half — that allowed the host Aztecs to build a 20-point lead in forging a 90-81 victory in front of 11,321 at the Viejas Arena.
TJ Haws led BYU (8-6) with 18 points and five assists. Jahshire Hardnett added 12 points while Yoeli Childs and Luke Worthington finished with 11 points apiece. But Childs took a season-low seven shots and committed a season-worst six turnovers, as San Diego State (7-4) focused its defense on the junior from South Jordan.
"They did a terrific job of taking Yo out of the offense, then they did a really good job defensively of covering our other guys," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "We've had teams double-team us, and we've had issues at times making shots, but not with turning it over."
"They came out and sped us up," the junior guard said. "From the start, we were making passes we don't usually make. The plays that we normally make, we weren't making.
"When you play in a place like this in front of 11,000, 12,000 fans, you need to be able to be calm and not let yourselves speed up. But they got us out of our rhythm."
The Aztecs made four steals, two by Devin Watson, while forcing seven turnovers in the first 7 minutes, 39 seconds — and turned them into 15 points, all from 3-point baskets.
"That's a killer," Worthington said. "When you get on the court and give the ball back to them and they score, it makes your life a lot harder."
When Jordan Schakel made a 3-pointer with 11:13 left in the first half, SDSU expanded its advantage to 33-13, the hosts' biggest of the game. Matt Mitchell scored 15 of his season-high 22 points in the first nine minutes.
"They have a lot of quick guys and a lot of guys who can shoot, which can make things a challenge," Haws said. "You've got to be able to stay in front of your guy and guard the ball. If that doesn't happen, they penetrate, get in the gaps and get open looks, which is not good. They spread us out a lot and got easy shots."
But the Cougars fought back.
BYU narrowed its deficit to 49-38 on Kolby Lee's 3-point shot with 57.1 seconds remaining in the half. However, Nolan Narain's driving reverse lay-in and Jeremy Hemsley's free throw gave the Aztecs a 52-38 halftime lead.
The Cougars began the second half by making nine of their first 15 shots to draw within 68-59 on Nick Emery's 3-point shot with 12:15 to play. SDSU responded with a 10-4 burst to build a 78-63 advantage with 7:47 left. Schakel made a pair of 3-pointers within 50 seconds, then Nathan Mensah converted two turnaround jumpers in a span of 1:50.14 comments on this story
BYU made its final push by closing the gap to 78-67 with 7:03 to go. But the Aztecs made nine of 12 foul shots in the next 5:06 to secure the victory.
Watson finished with game highs of 23 points, eight assists and three steals. Hemsley contributed 14 points and Schakel finished with 12 points.
"After we settled down in the second half, I thought we played much better," Rose said. "This is a tough environment. They've got a great crowd. But our guys hung in there and competed."