LOGAN – Not only did the Utah State basketball team beat Colorado State Wednesday night, but it handed the Rams its worst loss of the year. Chris Smith scored 19 points and Jalen Moore added 16 during the 72-59 victory.
“Coach said the tougher team usually wins,” Moore said. “I thought we were the tougher team in the second half.”
It was the second-fewest points the CSU team has scored all year. The Rams came into the game as the top-scoring team in the conference, averaging 81 points per game.
“We finally wanted to play some defense,” Moore said. “It’s about time. It helped us get a really big win. That’s what we needed.”
The win improved USU’s record to 13-11 overall and 5-8 in conference. With five games remaining, the Aggies will need as many wins as possible to get a first-round bye
“As long as we keep winning, I think we’ll be in a really good spot come tournament time, because teams are just beating up on each other right now,” Moore said.
USU stuck with the larger lineup that was first implemented in last week’s game against New Mexico. After beating the Lobos to end a five-game losing streak, head coach Tim Duryea said he made the changes to help with rebounding. The Aggies were outrebounded 43-35 during this game, but Duryea sees progress.
“We’re still not the toughest guys on the block by any means, but we’re just a little bigger, little stronger, and we’ve got just a little bit tougher mentality,” Duryea said. “So I hope we can keep that going.”
Less than five minutes into the game, the Aggies led 9-7. Smith had four early points, but doubled his total when CSU’s Antwan Scott fouled the senior point guard on a 3-point basket. Both the shot and the and-1 attempt went in.
There was a clear 3-point battle during the first half. Colorado State had seven 3-point baskets during the first 20 minutes while USU countered with six of its own.
After pulling ahead 27-18, the Aggies’ 3s temporarily stopped falling. Six-straight misses from behind the arc kept USU scoreless for more than five minutes while the Rams scored 11. The run gave the Rams their first lead since the 17:30 mark, but the Aggies were able to close out the half strong and take a 37-35 lead into the break.
The Aggies broke the game open in the second half. After a 15-4 run, CSU made a push to try and catch up, but a Shane Rector layup followed by a Smith steal and old-fashioned 3-point play put USU up 12 with just more than five minutes left in the game.
“We played harder (in the second half),” junior forward Lew Evans said. “We played unselfish, we rebounded the ball, which is huge for us and got a good win.”
“We were able to play better defense (in the second half),” Moore said. “Made them miss some threes. We were able to rebound the ball when we needed to.”
The following basket was a 3-pointer by Moore. It put USU up 68-53 and gave Moore 1,001 points on his career, joining his father Jimmy Moore and 35 others Aggies who have eclipsed the 1,000 point mark. He needs 163 more to catch his dad.
“I’m coming for him,” he said. “I want to pass him. That’s my next main goal along with winning some games.”
The Aggies will now go on a two-game road trip to take on Fresno State and Nevada.