Aggies drop close contest vs Wyoming, 71-69 – Cache Valley Daily

LOGAN, Utah – The Cowboys outgunned the Aggies 71 to 69 in a physical, turbulent game. The Aggies collected their third home loss of the year and third conference loss of the season.

“Tough ending for our guys,” head coach Ryan Odom said.

With the game tied at 69, Wyoming took a timeout to form a plan. They were in the driver’s seat with the ball with roughly 20 seconds left in the game. Off of the inbounds, Hunter Maldonado dribbled out 10 seconds then fed the ball to Graham Ike at the elbow. Ike backed down his defender and finished a basket off of the glass to take a 71 to 69 lead with just over three seconds left.

The Aggies took a timeout and Odom drew up an inbounds play. Jones flew down the middle of the court and launched up a 3-pointer for the win. The ball clung off the back iron and bounced off the hoop as time expired.

“Three seconds is not a lot of time. Coach drew up the play and it was kind of my read. There was going to be a screen for Steven (Ashworth) on the baseline and my look was to see if he was open to get a three up and they covered him. And I kind of had nobody in front of me. I shot it and I knew it was probably going to be long, just running full speed and not really being able to get my feet all the way under me, but when I shot it, it was right on target. I’m like, ‘it’s got a chance,’ and just obviously (it went) off the backboard,” Jones said.

Despite a recent rough stretch of games offensively, Jones was who the Aggies wanted taking the last shot. Entering the contest, Jones averaged 7.4 points per game but stepped up big for Utah State. He hit four 3-pointers on his way to collecting 19 points, one rebound and two assists. He also finished a tough and-one layup to take the lead, 67-65, with 1:33 left in the game.

“He and I have been talking a lot about just going for it. He can’t go through games and be 0-1. He’s a smart player. The game is going to tell him what he needs to do. He passed up one in that first half… at that point, he had come out as a typical sub and I said ‘you shoot that ball.’ And he went right in there and made the next shot that he took and his confidence kind of grew from there.”

Jones said he took more shots this game because Wyoming gave him space off of screens.

“My job was to do what the game tells me to do. And when they go under (a ball screen,) I got to step up and make some shots and I did. I shot when I was open and made some shots and fed off of the crowd and the momentum,” Jones said.

The matchup was physical on both sides of the ball leading to a combined 36 free throws. The physicality led to a chippy, aggressive environment, especially down the stretch.

“It was really heated at times, a really physical game. I guess you’re gonna get a lot of fouls from that naturally,” Forward Justin Bean said. “We just got to keep being physical and try to match that aggression moving forward.”

Frequent foul calls also made a heavy impact on the matchup. During two separate two-and-a-half-minute stretches, seven and five fouls were called respectively. Brandon Horvath was especially affected. He picked up his fourth personal foul with 12:33 on a call that Odom did not agree with. He made his displeasure obvious to the officials who called a technical foul on him.

“We ended up losing the game by two there at the end and I gave them a couple of buckets there and that’s not what a coach is supposed to do. And so, I apologized to them after the game. The game is a collection of plays. You can’t pick one and say you lost because of that, but when I do what I did that’s a cardinal sin there. I shouldn’t have done that,” Odom said.

Horvath was solid on the defensive side but only scored four points in the game. The Aggies will need him to step up in future games to have a chance in conference play.

“We got to get Brandon going. He’s scored some points in recent games, but I know that he can play better than he’s playing. And he knows that he can play better than he’s playing,” Odom said.

Bean was his usual, productive self. He picked up his 11th double-double of the year. Bean tied Jones for most points by an Aggie finishing with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three assists.

The Aggies needed more from their offense tonight, but between missed shots and solid defense from Wyoming, they could not surpass the Cowboy offense.

“Credit to their defense, they kind of play a funky defense. The guys that they want to shoot they kind of just back way off and we just missed some of those shots,” Jones said.

“More than anything shots weren’t falling. We were in our heads a little bit. We just kind of took what they gave us,” Bean said.

Utah State is obviously frustrated with picking up their third loss in conference play in just their fourth game. This is especially because they had a chance to win in all three contests.

“We’ve lost on the last possession (in) three games in conference. We just have to find a way to finish and come out on top,” Jones said.

Despite that frustration, the Aggies are optimistic they can respond positively, improve and close out games in the future.

“We still have hope and we are still staying positive. We know what this team is capable of. I know what this team is capable of and that hasn’t changed. Just looking forward to the next one. We got to bounce back from this one and make the right adjustments,” Bean said.

“The key for us is our response from here. One of the cool things for me and our staff is that literally every day that we walk into our locker room…it’s the same team,” Odom said. “Whether we won by 15 or we lose a heartbreaker like this one or Colorado State, I get the same team every single day. I’m really proud of the men that these guys are and I know that they will respond from this.”

With the loss, Utah State falls to 10-7 on the year, 1-3 in conference play. The Aggies’ next contest will be at Fresno State on Tuesday night.

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