LOGAN – Saturday night’s Aggie comeback went to the final play, but it came up short. The 70-67 loss to San Diego State put the Aggies at 1-1 in conference and 9-4 overall.
USU head coach Tim Duryea said the Aztec’s 16 offensive rebounds were “entirely too many.” It helped SDSU gain a 15-1 advantage in second-chance points.
“Our number one key in the game was that we had to play them even on the boards, we thought, to have a chance to win,” Duryea said. “I thought the game came down to second-chance points.”
Forward Lew Evans led the Aggies with a career-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Moore added 13, Chris Smith added 12 and Shane Rector had 11.
“With what I did, I’d like to have a win,” Evans said. “It sucks to get a loss. That’s a very, very good team, always in the top of the Mountain West. Coming up short, it sucks.”
After trailing 32-24 in the first half, Moore hit a jumper to cut the Aztec lead to 6, then Evans scored the Aggies’ next eight points to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in the half. A 3-pointer by Trey Kell gave SDSU a 39-36 halftime lead. The Aztecs followed it up with 10-straight points to start the second half.
“Now you’re climbing uphill the rest of the half,” Duryea said of the Aztec’s second half start. “That’s unfortunate, but we were really flat to start the second half and I don’t have a reason for that.”
Aided by six scoreless minutes from SDSU, the Aggies were able to fight back and cut the deficit to a single point with just more than a minute left, but the Aztecs scored the next four and left USU with a 5-point deficit and less than five seconds on the clock.
“We cut the lead all the way down,” Duryea said. “They had a couple blocks near the basket and just kind of held us off, we just could never get the game tied or take a lead.”
The 5-point hole left USU in a situation where two quick scores had to made. It forced Evans to take a long 3-point shot from nearly half court that found its way into the basket. Immediately after, Aggie guard Shane Rector stole the ball on SDSU’s inbound, but was called for a foul in the process.
“We were trying to switch everything and deny and get a five-count and try to get a turnover there,” Duryea said. “If they did get a catch we wanted to foul on the catch. Close to getting a turnover there but I couldn’t see for sure.”
Hemsley hit one of the two free throw attempts giving his team a 3-point lead and USU just 1.4 seconds to take a shot, but it was a chance the Aggies didn’t get. The inbound pass down court was taken away by SDSU’s Winston Shepard.
“We should have never had to come over that hump,” Smith said of the team’s failed comeback. “We could have ran away with this game if we would have come out like we did in the first half. Just plain and simple, that’s all we needed to do.”
The Aggies continue conference play at home against Boise State on Tuesday.