By REED NELSON
1:05 — Tip-off in San Diego with Bill Walton as trippy tour guide. Why is he a tour guide not an announcer? Because Walton doesn’t so much announce games as he does traverse the portion of the flat circle of time that the game happens to take place in. Or something like that. Whatever the reasons may be, he’s the best tour guide ever and a national treasure. Oh, and also, this:
1:06 — Brandon Taylor knocks down the game’s first shot, a three from the left wing on the opening possession, which is a good thing for a Utah team playing a very good San Diego State defense.
1:08 — Utah’s uniforms look great. They could do without the white polygon-mountain transition on the side of both the jersey and the shorts (a detail that looks great on the football uniforms, for what it’s worth), but they’re nice and classic and understated and everything that Under Armour uniforms are usually not. Utah’s ball control, however, does not look great. It looks terrible. Jacob Poeltl looks good though. He has two offensive rebounds.
1:10 — SDSU takes almost four minutes to score their first bucket, but it’s cool because Utah didn’t score for a few minutes either.
1:14 — Utah comes out of the break trailing 5-3. It could be reasonably assumed that they addressed their inability to end possessions with shots during the break. It could also be assumed that they discussed turning the ball over less. So they turn the ball over directly out of the time out.
1:18 — Bill Walton informs us that he considers the SDSU student section to be The Wall of Sound. No word from the student section how they feel about the Phil Spector association. Also, Utah now trails 9-4.
1:22 — Walton also is pretending to be confused about the distance of a basketball marathon. He doesn’t like that ESPN’s version of the marathon is 29 hours. He has a point; why not make it 26.2 hours? That would be kind of cool. Especially if the games didn’t tidily fit into that frame, forcing good games over to ESPNU and WatchESPN. Twitter would hate that. I have both channels, so I wouldn’t mind.
1:26 — Utah looks terrible through 10 minutes, yet somehow trail by just six. Granted, they’re trailing 12-6, but still. They’ve looked lost in the face of SDSU’s pressure, have failed to get anything resembling a clean look in the paint and have basically resorted to playing closer to the half-court line than the baseline. This means the only type of shot they’ve consistently got off through 10 minutes are long three’s with a waning shot clock. That is not a recipe for success. That’s not a recipe for anything at all, except for frustration.
1:29 — Utah goes 10 minutes between baskets before Isaiah Wright knocks down a three, bringing the Utes within three. Jordan Loveridge’s flailing up-and-under brings them within one. This shouldn’t be a one-point game, but no complaints on my end.
1:34 — Through 14 minutes, this game has featured a combined three assists and a combined 11 turnovers. #TipOffMarathon amirite?
1:36 — Chris Reyes hits an awkward hook off the bench to give the U its first lead since the opening minute. Following a 1-of-2 free throw performance from Reyes, Poeltl gets super mean toward Dakarai Allen and doesn’t let him dunk, which Allen, based on body language and a host of other things, seemed intent on doing.
1:38 — Jordan Loveridge finishes with his left hand on a nice drive, but the basket is waved off as the official points to a spot on the floor nowhere near the action. Bill Walton asks about a time warp. He says, “the history of the world is in the balance.” I believe him. Or I don’t doubt him. Is that the same thing? Either way, he’s not happy. Neither are the Utes.
1:44 — There has been so many turnovers in this game. It’s almost unbearable. I’m doing everything in my power not to make a pastry reference. Utah trails 17-16.
1:46 — So there’s a minute left in the first half, and I have yet to type Delon Wright’s name. Well, before then I hadn’t. And that sucks, for a number of reasons. The most important of those reasons is that he is undoubtedly Utah’s best all-around player. Last year, he was one of exactly one player in the nation to average more than 15 points, five boards, five assists, two steals and a block a game. Today, he’s contributed zero points to Utah’s grand total of 16. Fortunately, he does have four boards, three assists and two steals.
1:50 — Both teams are shooting under 30 percent from the floor with 30 seconds to play in the half, and Utah is holding for last shot… Which they definitely don’t get off. Instead of shooting the ball at the hoop, Loveridge decides to throw an entry pass into Poeltl that could’ve been delivered with similar accuracy had he chosen to punt it instead. The ball kicks around for a moment before SDSU gains possession with 5.2 seconds to play. The Aztec’s then take two shots in under five seconds, but both attempts manage to hit the bottom of the rim — a feat that can’t be easy — and we go to half time with Utah ahead 18-17, which is essentially the basketball equivalent of a crumbled Jenga tower. Moving on…
Chris Reyes — 5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 offensive rebounds, 1 block.
Delon Wright — 0 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers.
San Diego State
Winston Shepard — 6 points, 3 rebounds.
Combined Sadness: These two are shooting a combined 25 percent (11-44) from the field, 50 percent (9-18) from the line and 22 percent (4-18) from three, while dishing out just seven assists as collective unit. Those seven combined assists were served with an entrée of 15 turnovers. Also, just to convince you that this wasn’t just a total defensive struggle and that both teams, in fact, were just playing bad basketball throughout the half, there were a combined 24 rebounds in a half that saw 33 missed shots, and 13 of those were of the offensive variety. I can’t precisely tell you what this means, but I can speculate that it isn’t good.
Another Quick Observation: The aforementioned Winston Shepard is the only player so far to make more than one shot. Let that sink in for a moment. In 200 combined minutes, over the span of 44 attempts, with 15 different players attempting multiple shots, only one has managed to complete the primary objective of the game of basketball more than one time. Granted, both teams are known as defensive-leaning teams, but the paucity of shooting is a little ridiculous. Here’s to offense!
2:08 — We’re back. J.J. O’Brien gets his first bucket on SDSU’s first possession, giving the Aztecs the lead, 19-18. Utah dodges a bullet on their first possession before not dodging a bullet and turning the ball over in unspectacular but predictable fashion.
2:10 — San Diego State starts with a torrid three points in the first 100 seconds, which dramatically outpaced the first half’s pace. Check that… FIVE POINTS IN LESS THAN 120 SECONDS WE’RE IN BIZARRO WORLD.
2:12 — Bill Walton criticizes Dorrell Wright, Delon’s big brother for wearing a Los Angeles Kings hat. He doesn’t like this because Wright plays for the Portland Trailblazers. Walton thinks that the Kings hat is in reference to the Sacramento version. Upon finding out that Wright’s hat is, in fact, in reference to the hockey iteration, he still refuses to back down on his stance. “This is basketball.” Walton is the best.
2:14 — Utah’s Poeltl gets them on the board in the second half, but SDSU answers with a quick bucket of their own. Utah still trails by just four with 15 to play.
2:17 — Bill is back, ladies and gentlemen. He just reveals that he hasn’t taken an indoor shower at home in 35 years. Also, Utah turns over the basketball on the inbounds play following a timeout. They’ve looked better. Better is a low bar right now.
2:19 — Brekkott Chapman hits a bucket to become the first Ute with two different scoring instances on the day. They trail by just two.
2:21 — SDSU just had a series that ended when Angelo Chol missed two free throws, but began when Jordan Loveridge decided jersey color/style/message didn’t matter, passed the ball to Dwayne Polee II, who then tried to Evel Knievel his way over approximately all of the Utah defenders, only to have that attempt fail. Dakarai Allen then grabbed the loose ball, nearly did the splits, fell, and when his backside was approximately two centimeters away from the floor, chose to shoot the basketball. Chol grabbed that board and got fouled, but then missed the free-throws, which is exactly how that play should’ve ended. #TipOffMarathon!!!!
2:28 — Jeff Goodman, Walton’s booth partner, just suggested that the first team to 40 might win. He’s probably right. SDSU leads 30-24 with 9:30 to play. Also, Utah has 14 turnovers and eight made field goals, so there’s that.
2:30 — On the other hand, Jacob Poeltl, who’s just a freshman, has seven blocks to go with his 10 rebounds and only three fouls. He’s very good at staying straight up-and-down, at least at the moment. Like freakishly good at it. But SDSU gets another putback bucket and increases their lead to nine, 33-24, which might as well be 35 the way Utah’s offense is moving. Actually, this is how it’s moving.
2:35 — Delon Wright is still very much scoreless, but Chris Reyes has picked up some of… er… the slack? I dunno. He has eight points, which is basically all of the points. Delon Wright needs at least 10 if Utah has a chance at coming back. At the moment, he has no points on nine shots. Oh, and bee-tee-dubs, Chris Reyes? Welcome to the Multiple Baskets Made Club, which, for some reason, is being super stingy about entrance today. Utah trails 33-27.
2:39 — I’m seriously concerned about the Utes getting to 40.
2:40 — They’re at 27 with less than 6:30 to play. Poeltl’s missed free throw did not help them toward this made up goal. His second one (made) did. Utah’s down 36-28.
2:41 — Wright almost had a steal that would’ve led to a fastbreak, which made me realize that Utah hasn’t had a fastbreak this entire game. At least not one I can remember. And considering the fact that they’ve made exactly nine baskets — and of those nine, four were really ugly and two were threes (accompanied by 17 missed threes!) — I think I would remember a good one.
2:42 — Isaiah Wright! With his second three and his first in about half an hour of game time, he brings Utah within five, 36-31. But alas, Utah lets J.J. O’Brien tip back Aqeel Quinn’s miss and the lead swells back to seven.
2:46 — Another time out from Utah, another possession coming out of a time out that ends in a turnover with less than five seconds on the shot clock. Their offense looks like what a Rolling Stones show would look like if Keith Richards decided to play the entire set with his forehead. It’s terrible.
2:48 — And there it is. SDSU gets to 40 with a Polee jumper. Chapman closes the gap to seven again, but with 2:34 to play, Utah has been in better spots. One more Aztec basket seriously might do it.
2:54 — So coming out of the timeout, with Utah trailing by seven and 2:18 left on the clock, Utah fouls SDSU three times — twice before the inbounds even comes in — and O’Brien knocks down both in a one-and-one situation. Brandon Taylor knocks down a three with a quickness, however, and cuts the lead to six. If Utah starts scoring now, it’ll be a little surprising. They’ve been brutal.
2:59 — Delon Wright finally gets off the 0-for train with an offensive rebound and a putback. Unfortunately, it comes with 1:22 to play, and the game firmly entrenched in “extend this m*****f****r” mode. His three attempt on the next possession crawls on nearly every milometer of touchable rim and pops out. Some days suck.
3:02 — Brandon Taylor has sort of caught fire, or at least has gotten as hot as a member of a unit shooting 5-for-23 could possibly be. Quinn makes one of two, then Loveridge! Another three! Three of Utah’s six threes have come in the final minute thirty. Utah’s within three.
3:06 — But Trey Kell makes both free throws for the Aztecs and pushes the lead back to five. Also, Bill Walton hates late sleepers and slow starters. They’re the only two things in life that Walton has no tolerance for. He mentions zero things that he has a high tolerance for though, which would’ve been a way more interesting list.
3:08 — Delon Wright gets fouled on a three with 10 seconds to play, and this game just won’t end. That super sad first to 40 prediction is still holding, but it wasn’t my super sad prediction, so I’ve escaped moral hazard. Wright knocks down all three free throws and brings the Utes within two. Polee knocks down his first free throw to extend the lead to three, before Steve Fisher calls a timeout. He’ll presumably implore his team to not foul a three-point shooter this time. That would be prudent of him. Also, this game is maddening.
3:12 — Polee knocks down his second. Wright misses a long three attempt, Poeltl pulls down the board and then double-dribbles the possession away, which is probably the only way this game should’ve ended.
3:13 —It’s mercifully over. San Diego State 53, Utah 49. Thanks for hanging in. Nelson, OUT.