LOGAN, Utah – The Aggies dropped a tough, close-fought game to Saint Mary’s, 60-58. With 0.9 of a second left in the game, the referees called a foul on forward Justin Bean who got tangled up with guard Alex Ducas while going for a rebound. The Gaels were in the bonus and Ducas drilled both shots to win the game.
“Obviously a bitter, bitter loss for us. Tough loss. Hard way to end the game. There’s no really shying away from that,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
There appeared to be a heated exchange between Odom and Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s head coach, following the game. The pair briefly shook hands before they traded words. Bennett then stormed off and applauded the arena while they booed him.
The game came down to the wire in the last minute. Tied at 58, Guard RJ Eytle-Rock gave the Aggies an opportunity to win the game when he ripped the ball from forward Dan Fotu with 37 seconds left in the game. Utah State went down the court and found Bean who was blocked by Fotu. There appeared to be some contact on the shot, but no foul was called.
“Got an open lane and went up and I don’t know, I might’ve got fouled, but I’ll have to look at the play. I didn’t see it well,” Bean said.
Bean rebounded his miss and kicked the ball out to guard Rylan Jones for a game-winning triple that missed. Bean was then called for a loose ball foul sending Ducas to the line to win the game.
“Thought I had the ball first and I didn’t think I fouled the guy and you can’t change that. That’s just basketball,” Bean said. “You can say what you want about the refs. Obviously, there’s gonna be a lot of chatter about that the next couple of days. But, at the end of the day, they won the game. You can’t change that.”
Utah State struggled on offense. Finishing with season lows in shot percentage, 33.7%, and points, 58. The Aggies also got out-rebounded for the first time in 47 games dating two seasons. In crunch time, the Aggies missed four straight shots and didn’t score a field goal in the last three minutes of the game.
The Aggies played tough defense the whole night, but especially in the first half. They held the Gaels to a 25.9% field goal percentage and didn’t allow one made 3-pointer in that half. They limited the Gaels to five free throw attempts; Good enough for season-lows in both free throws attempted and made by an opponent.
Guard Steven Ashworth was a bright spot for Utah State. He finished with 12 points, an assist and three rebounds. It was his 10th career double-digit scoring game.
“He was really good. He just comes in ready,” Odom said. “His willingness to play his role for us and not be afraid to make a big shot or make a big play or be tough on defense and make a stand for us is huge.”
Things started off slowly at the Spectrum. After a Bean basket, the shot clock didn’t start. Officials worked on it for a few minutes and restarted play. On the next Gael possession, the same thing happened. Both teams’ offenses followed that stop-and-go trend for the rest of the first half.
Neither team could find a consistent rhythm. The Aggies shot 33% in the half, but that was still better than the Gaels’ dismal 25.9%. Bean led all scorers in the first half with nine points, scoring the Aggies’ first seven.
The offense picked up for both teams in the second half. The Aggies were led by 10 more points from Bean, but also nine points off the bench from Ashworth. Fotu found his rhythm for the Gaels late in the game as he put up all of his eight points in the second half. Saint Mary’s was led by Ducas who finished with 13 points.
The 8,888 people that attended the contest made up the biggest crowd in the Spectrum since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The crowd was loud and energetic, especially during the last few minutes. Every Aggie available to media after the game made their appreciation of that known.
“It was a great, great atmosphere like I said, couldn’t say enough great things about the fans, they really came through tonight. The biggest thing is you want to win for them. You want to win those close games, those hard-fought games with those kinds of atmospheres because they deserve it and that’s probably the most heartbreaking thing about this loss for me just not being able to deliver for them,” Bean said.
“It was our coaching staff’s first opportunity and some of our players’ first opportunity to really see what the Spectrum can be and how powerful it is in there when we’re all connected like that. It’s one of the reasons that I came here, to be a part of that, so that was fun to coach in that environment,” Odom said.
“We’ve got to give props to the crowd for coming out big time. They were loud, they were energetic, they were in there the whole game. Definitely gave us a boost, so we appreciate that,” Ashworth said.
Utah State drops to 6-2 on the year with the loss. For their next game, they travel down to Provo, Utah to take on in-state rival Brigham Young on Wednesday.