LOGAN – The Spectrum was filled to capacity Saturday night as instate rival BYU came to town, but just like the five previous years, Utah State ended up on the losing side. The Aggies fell to 4-5 as visiting BYU left town with the 75-66 victory.
“It’s obviously a frustrating loss at home with such a good crowd,” sophomore guard Sam Merrill said. “Especially the way we lost.”
Head coach Tim Duryea said it was one of the most frustrating losses he has ever been a part of. He said his team was able to accomplish most of the objectives he set out before the game, but really hurt itself in one glaring category: the Aggies were 10-of-23 from the free throw line.
“You make more field goals, you make more threes, you get twice as many offensive rebounds and you just can’t make any free throws,” he said. “That is really, really frustrating.”
Koby McEwen led all Aggies with 20 points, Merrill added 14 and Alex Dargenton contributed another 10.
“We gave our best effort,” McEwen said. “But it wasn’t good enough, so we’ve got to get better.”
It wasn’t until the 17:17 mark in the first half that the first points of the game were scored, when McEwen was fouled as he hit a 3-pointer from the right corner. It was the first of four first-half treys for the sophomore.
The Aggie defense did enough to make BYU miss all 10 of its first half 3-pointers, but because of turnovers and missed free throws Utah State was unable to stretch its lead to more than eight, and eventually allowed the Cougars to get back into it. BYU took its first lead of the game with 1:18 left in the first half, scoring 10 of the final 11 points before the break to take a 28-24 halftime lead.
“We had a chance to create a cushion,” Merrill said. “We didn’t do it.”
Duryea gave his reasons why BYU was able to make its first half comeback.
“We have got to finish around the rim,” he said, “and we’ve got to make our free throws.”
BYU’s 3-point drought didn’t last much longer. Cougar Elijah Bryant ended it on the first possession of the second half, extending the lead to 31-24. The Aggies responded with a 9-0 run to retake the lead and force BYU to call a timeout.
Bryant hit another trey following the timeout, the second of six for BYU in the second half. The teams continued to swap baskets and found themselves tied at 43 with 10 minutes remaining, but USU was outscored 7-2 during the next two-and-a-half minutes. The Aggies never led again, and watched BYU’s lead slowly grow through the end of the game.
“We guarded really well in the first half,” Merrill said. “Didn’t do as well in the second half.”