DENVER— It wasn’t pretty for Utah State from start to finish.
The Aggies trailed the entire game and suffered their second straight loss as they fell to the Denver Pioneers, 68-57. With both Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed on the bench due to injuries, USU’s Ben Clifford and Marvin Jean got the start. Jean led the way for the Aggies with 14 points while Jarred Shaw added 10. Denver’s Brett Olsen led all scorers with 18.
“Kyisean and Preston going down was tough. It was tough without them,” Jean said in a postgame interview with KVNU. “I got the chance to get in there and get it going, but unfortunately we didn’t get it done.”
Denver jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead over Utah State. Of the Pioneer’s next seven made shots, six were from behind the arc. Utah State was also hitting from long range – in fact, the Aggies didn’t score a two-point field goal until two minutes left in the first half. After a barrage of 3-pointers, the Pioneers led USU 36-25 at the break.
“Denver is a pretty good team. Their offense, the Princeton offense, that’s a really good offense,” Jean said. “We just gave up too many 3’s and made some little mistakes that we could have fixed. I was getting frustrated out there. I was playing good ‘D’ and it’d come down to the last 10 seconds and they’d throw up a Hail Mary, then it’s in.”
Utah State (14-3, 5-2) shot the ball much better than the Aggies did Thursday against New Mexico State. USU was 47 percent from the floor on 16-of-34 shooting. USU had a hard time holding on to the ball on offense though, as the Aggies had a total of 15 turnovers with only 10 assists on the night.
“I would have taken what we got done offensively if we just hadn’t have turned it over so many times,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said in a postgame interview with KVNU. “The majority of those turnovers were by our five-men. We threw the ball in there and they just got it taken from them time and time again. We call that swarming the post and they do a great job of it. We worked hard on that for three days. It’s not like our guys didn’t know that was coming. We only had 34 shots on goal and that’s because we have 10 assists and 15 turnovers and they have 17 assists with three turnovers. Our offense was solid other than the doggone turnovers.”
With the Aggie bench having been in a scoring slump, they were forced to step up and play more minutes with three starters out with injuries.
“Obviously Marvin had a real good shooting night,” Morrill said. “He is a 3-point shooter, he can get it rolling from the 3. We had some odd lineups out there. Ben Clifford didn’t do much for a long period of the game and then he played pretty good in the second half, which we really needed him to do.”
Denver got out to a big lead in the second half, leading by as much as 21 with 12 minutes left to play. The Aggies were able to cut the deficit to 10 multiple times with less than five minutes to play, but they were unable to get any closer.
“Defensively, we guarded most of their action pretty well, their layup looks, their flare looks. What we couldn’t guard was the last 10 seconds of the shot clock. They just made play after play,” Morrill said. “We knew we were without Preston and Kyisean and that we had a challenging night ahead. I’m not disappointed in our effort. I was disappointed in some of the results but not our effort.”
USU will look to get back on the winning track when the Aggies return home Thursday, Jan. 24 to host UT Arlington (8-8, 3-4 WAC).