SALT LAKE CITY — All around San Diego State's locker room, fingers were pointing in different directions late Friday night.
Coach Smokey Gaines was pointing fingers at the officials. Anthony Watson, who scored a career-high 30 points, was pointing at teammate Creon Dorsey. And Dorsey was pointing at that darn Special Events Center on the University of Utah's campus.
Maybe Dorsey had the best point of all. That beautiful building in a picturesque valley has been nothing but a House of Horrors for SDSU in the past year.
The Aztecs have played three times--and lost three times--in the Special Events Center since last January. Their latest loss came Friday in overtime against Utah, 93-89.
"I don't like this place for some reason," Dorsey said. "It just doesn't appeal to me like BYU or UTEP."
Dorsey was around when SDSU won for the first time at BYU last year. And he was around when the Aztecs won the Western Athletic Conference's postseason tournament last year at Texas El Paso.
But he wasn't around when SDSU won at Utah in 1982.
Watson, who has been around SDSU for the past four seasons, wondered why Dorsey didn't seem to be around much at the conclusion of Friday's game. Though Dorsey was on the court most of the time, Watson thought his teammate all but pulled disappearing acts at times.
"I don't think Creon was on his game," Watson said. "He kind of let down at the end. We need him."
Responded Dorsey: "I didn't think I had a letdown. If I let down, everybody let down. Maybe I'm the scapegoat today. That's the way it goes."
Dorsey scored eight of his 11 points during the second half, but had but one free throw in the overtime period.
The Aztecs (3-10 overall) were aiming for their third straight WAC victory and twice had six-point leads in the second half. SDSU seemed to be in control when it led, 75-70, with 4:50 remaining, but the Aztecs fell apart down the stretch.
Utah (9-5, 1-2) received a big break when John Martens, SDSU's tallest player at 6-8, fouled out with 38 seconds remaining in regulation and the score tied, 78-78. The Aztecs had consistently been feeding the ball inside to Martens, who had 18 points and 8 rebounds.
After Martens fouled out, Utah took the lead, 80-78, on two free throws by Albert Springs. The Aztecs tied the game, 80-80, on a 20-foot shot by Josh Lowery with 18 seconds remaining.
Utah's Kelvin Upshaw missed a 20-foot shot with four seconds remaining, and Watson got the rebound. However, SDSU could not get off a shot.
In overtime, the Utes quickly took control. They led by six points with 2:50 remaining, 87-81, and SDSU could never get closer than four points.
Jerry Stroman led Utah with a career-high 30 points. Bobby Adair had a career-high 14 rebounds as the Utes outrebounded SDSU, 50-43.
After Utah took the lead in overtime, it kept getting the ball to Manuel Hendrix, a 75% free throw shooter. The Aztecs continually fouled Hendrix, who made eight straight free throws in one-and-one situations before missing with five seconds remaining.
"I think that was a mishap on our part," Watson said in regard to fouling Hendrix. "He kept getting in the right place at the right time. We were trying to foul Adair and Stroman."
Afterwards, Gaines was in a sour mood because of the officials. He thought the Aztecs were "homered" on numerous calls, particularly the fifth foul against Martens.
The three officials barely made it to the game because their airplane's landing was delayed by heavy fog in Salt Lake City.
"It seems like they're still in a fog," Gaines said. "Please don't ask me about them. They weren't even on the (rating) scale tonight."
The Aztecs were tied at the half, 40-40, despite using an extremely small lineup during the final minutes. After Martens and 6-9 center Kevin Brown each had two fouls, Gaines used five players who were 6-4 or shorter.
When Martens returned after halftime, he began to dominate. His three-point play with 15:43 remaining gave the Aztecs their first lead, 51-50. He later scored three consecutive field goals that gave SDSU a 71-67 advantage.
Watson followed with another field goal, providing the Aztecs a 73-67 lead with 6:26 left.
But again, the Utah jinx caught up with SDSU. The Aztecs had lost at Utah last year, 67-65. Then, SDSU was beaten by Nevada Las Vegas, 85-80, in the NCAA playoffs at Utah.
And now, this.
"We have to win games like that, especially on the road," Watson said. "We had it and lost it."