Second half struggle causes fourth-straight Aggie loss (with photo gallery)

LOGAN – With seconds remaining in Saturday night’s game at the Spectrum, the ball found its way into Indiana State forward TJ Bell’s hands. His layup went in to give his team a 62-61 win over Utah State.

The loss was USU’s fourth-in-a-row, but this one was particularly painful. It came after USU seemed to cruise to a 14-point first-half lead.

“Obviously, a really, really hard loss,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “I thought down the stretch Indiana State played like a veteran team … and I thought we played very, very young.”

Almost immediately before Bell’s game-winning shot, it was USU freshman guard Koby McEwen that looked like the game hero. He stood at the charity stripe, down by a single point, with the game riding on his next two shots. He made both.

“That showed a lot of heart, to make two when you’re down by one,” Duryea said.

But USU didn’t need to be in that situation. The Aggies led 35-21 at halftime, but it was all Indiana State after the break. The Sycamores started the second half by outscoring the Aggies 16-4, cutting the USU lead to two. Rector finally ended USU’s scoring drought with a 3-pointer, but the lead was officially gone when Sycamore star Brenton Scott followed up his own 3-point shot with a layup. That tied the game at 42 with just less than 10 minutes to play.

“We just didn’t do the same thing we did in the first half,” senior wing Jalen Moore said. “We didn’t shoot well in the second half, but we still had our chances.”

Utah State pulled back ahead, but only slightly. With his team trailing by four with 2:07 left, Indiana State’s Matt Van Scoyc was fouled by Moore on his 3-point shot. The shot went in, and so did the and-1 free throw attempt.

“I didn’t think I fouled him, but it is what it is,” Moore said. “They called a foul.”

Duryea said Indiana State’s second-half defense caught him off guard. He said the Sycamores hadn’t run a 2-3 zone defense in its last five games of basketball, but did against USU.

“A little bit of desperation, they throw it out there, and we did not do a good job against the 2-3 zone,” he said. “I’ll take the blame for that.”

The change in defense helped keep USU scoreless for more than seven minutes.

“We couldn’t get stuff to work against the zone,” Moore said. “Every time they played man we either scored or got to the free throw line, so the zone is kind of what killed us.”

Duryea also blamed USU’s free throw struggles for the loss. The Aggies made just seven of its 13 second-half free throw attempts.

McEwen agreed.

“If we would have just made our free throws before all that happened we wouldn’t have been in that situation,” he said. “That’s obviously our fault.”

The Aggies had four players score in double figures. Shane Rector led with 14, Moore and McEwen each had 13 while Norbert Janicek added 10.

The loss dropped USU to 3-4 on the year, but USU will try to get back on track at home against Great Falls Tuesday night. Despite the losing streak, McEwen said the team isn’t down.

“We’re in desperation mode right now, we need a win,” he said. “Next game we will win. That’s our attitude.”

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