Aggies lose in Laramie in OT, 78-76 – Cache Valley Daily

FILE PHOTO: Brandon Horvath. Photo by Tina Lerohl

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Utah State’s win streak is over after Wyoming outlasted the Aggies in overtime, 78 to 76.

“It was just a really good college basketball game and an unfortunate ending for us,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not discouraging because we were right there with a team that’s just outside the top 25.”

Utah State had arguably three chances to win the game down the stretch. The first came in Wyoming’s final possession of regulation. After forward Justin Bean dunked, the Aggies led 68 to 66. On the ensuing possession, Utah State forced a tough 3 from guard Brendan Wenzel, but forward Graham Ike grabbed his fifth offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback. Ike hit both free throws to tie the game.

Even at 68, the Aggies had the final chance in regulation with six seconds on the clock. Inbounding from three-fourths court, tough Wyoming defense prevented Utah State from getting a shot off before time expired.

After a tight overtime period, the squads were tied at 76. That is when the Aggies experienced deja vu with how they lost to the Cowboys at home. With seven seconds left, guard Drake Jeffries missed a 3, but Ike got another clutch offensive rebound and nailed the putback. For the second time this season, Ike hit a game-winner over the Aggies.

“We gave ourselves chances to win. End of regulation and in overtime. We just didn’t execute on a few things and that’s something that we just have to go into the film room and just look ourselves in the mirror and know that we have to get better,” forward Justin Bean said.

Utah State had a couple of seconds after Ike’s shot to tie, but guard Rylan Jones’s floater came up short as time expired.

“I thought Rylan’s shot was excellent. He made the right decision in terms of getting to the rim,” Odom said. “It just didn’t go down. We can’t really put it all on those two plays, the end of regulation and the end of the game. There were winning plays out there to be had we just didn’t make.”

Offensive rebounds proved crucial throughout the game, but especially in crunch time. The Aggies got more, 9 to 5, but Wyoming was able to capitalize on their boards more effectively. The Cowboys had 12 second-chance points compared to the Aggies’ seven.

“They got a couple of key rebounds off of free throws and then off of missed shots,” Odom said.

The Aggies also had their seventh different starting lineup in the game. Center Trevin Dorius picked up his fourth career start, his first since the 2019-2020 season, as Utah State started a traditional center for the first time this year. The change came because guard Sean Bairstow was out with a non-COVID illness.

“We miss Sean but again it’s no excuse,” Bean said.

The already short-handed Aggies required significant minutes from reserve guards Max Shulga and Zee Hamoda because of foul trouble. Guards Rylan Jones and Steven Ashworth both picked up two fouls in the first half. As a result, Shulga and Hamoda each played nine minutes more than their season averages.

Hamoda made the biggest impact of the two on the stat sheet. He stepped up big for Utah State in the first half scoring nine points and recording two blocks in 13 minutes.

“Zee was dynamite in the first half. It wasn’t hard to see. He did a really nice job of filling in when we were in foul trouble there,” Odom said. “He played similarly in the Nevada game. He’s got a really bright future for us.”

Free throw disparity was apparent in the contest. Wyoming shot more than twice as many free throws as the Aggies, 32 to 13. The Aggies were also called for eight more fouls than the Pokes were.

“They shoot lots of free throws. That’s what they pride themselves in,” Bean said.

The contest was close throughout the game, but the Aggies held the lead for almost 75% of the game. Guard Steven Ashworth and forward Brandon Horvath led the way for Utah State in the first half as both scored in double-digits.

The game seemed to slip away from Utah State midway through the second half as their 10-point lead dissolved into a three-point Poke lead.  The Cowboys were fueled by an 11-2 run from 13:38 to 10:55 left in the second half. However, Bean almost single-handedly pulled the Aggies back into the game by scoring Utah State’s last 11 points in regulation.

“I wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to try and score and give our team a chance to take the lead late,” Bean said.

Bean was held scoreless in the first half but turned things around in the second. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and two steals as he picked up his 16th double-double.

Part of the reason Bean struggled in the first half was due to foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in the first 11 minutes of the game. Foul trouble for Bean and his teammates made defense more difficult.

“It’s definitely harder to be more physical on the defensive end,” Bean said. “That was definitely a factor, but again, not an excuse for the lack of physicality as a whole, as a team.”

In spite of the loss, Utah State has a lot to be proud of according to Odom.

“We can’t allow this to beat us down. We just won five in a row. We just lost to a really good team in overtime on the road,” Odom said.

After the loss, Utah State drops to 15-10 and 6-6 in the Mountain West. The Aggies’ next game is slated for Friday night at home against Nevada.

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