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The Runnin’ Utes continued their recent string of strong play Saturday when they went into Cox Arena and knocked off San Diego State, 67-65.

The Aztecs (16-7, 9-2 MWC) came into the game in sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference but were the victims of some timely perimeter shooting from the Utes (12-10, 5-6 MWC), who won their fourth game in their last five. The loss broke an eight-game winning streak for the Aztecs.

“We sent a message across the Mountain West Conference,” said Ute forward Bryant Markson, whose 18 points and 11 rebounds gave him his first career double-double. “We’re a team, and we’re dangerous.”

The Aztecs were gunning for their first season sweep of the Utes in 24 years, but they wound up playing catch-up throughout the afternoon.

The Utes held a 34-31 halftime lead but quickly saw SDSU jump ahead 35-34 early in the second. Much to the chagrin of the 9,156 people in attendance, the advantage would not last long. Keyed by Johnnie Bryant, the Utes went on a 17-4 run to take a 12-point lead with 14:02 remaining. Bryant had 10 of his 19 points during the run, which left the Utes in good shape to walk out of San Diego winners.

But the Aztecs-who trailed by as many as 13 points in their win at the Huntsman Center on Jan. 11-were not done yet. SDSU went on a 15-2 run that took less than four minutes and held a one-point lead with 10:22 to go.

From there, it was virtually neck-and-neck, until Ute freshman Shaun Green-0-for-7 from the field at the time-nailed a deep 3-pointer with 1:19 remaining to give the Utes a five-point lead, an advantage that even the potent Aztec attack could not overcome. A few missed free throws by the Utes near the end kept it interesting, but SDSU could not overcome Green’s clutch shot.

“They made their run, and most teams, including us earlier (in the season), would have folded,” Ute coach Ray Giacoletti said. “They were up by one point, our guys hung in there, it’s not perfect on the road-it’s never perfect on the road-but we just found a way.”

The Utes also might have found a way of being within range of a decent MWC tournament seed. The Utes are two games behind Air Force and BYU, which are tied for third place in the MWC. Utah is also a game back of New Mexico for fifth place.

The Utes still have home games remaining against Air Force, Wyoming and Colorado State, and have to go on the road to face UNLV and basement-dweller TCU.

The Utes can continue their winning ways Wednesday when CSU comes to the Huntsman Center at 7 p.m. The Rams have only one conference win this season-but that was an 84-78 victory over the Utes in Fort Collins.

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