BOISE, Idaho — Missed opportunities, tough fouls and turnovers spelled disaster for the Aggies on Saturday evening. They dropped their fourth game in a row losing to Boise State 68 to 57. It was Utah State’s third straight loss by double digits.
“Boise State made the plays down the stretch to finish us off,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
Utah State was down by just two with three minutes left. Guard Rylan Jones had just nailed a 3-pointer to cut Boise State’s lead down to 57-55. The Broncos proceeded to go on a game-winning 11-2 run.
“We were in the game right up to the end. We just really had a tough time finishing the game,” guard RJ Eytle-Rock said. “I don’t think they did anything special to be honest. I just felt like we didn’t guard them good enough down the stretch.”
Multiple factors determine every game, but the foul and free throw disparity in favor of Boise State was hard to ignore. Frequent fouls called on the Aggies put the Broncos in the bonus midway through the second half. The Broncos shot 28 free throws in the game and made 19. The free throw disparity between both squads was 22 while the foul disparity was 10.
Despite evidence going against the officiating, Utah State was quick to question their defense in the post-game conference.
“We were in foul trouble from early on,” Eytle-Rock said. “We can’t blame the refs. We made silly fouls. We were just hand-checking them 40 feet from the basket which then led to them being in the bonus pretty early on.”
Odom agreed with Eytle-Rock and said the team had some pretty “poor fouls.”
“I guess we just have to do a better job of keeping our chest in front and not fouling them,” Odom said. “We don’t have anybody to blame but ourselves on that.”
Guard RJ Eytle-Rock picked up four fouls, 2.3 more than his season average. Despite that, Eytle-Rock recorded 16 points, four rebounds and two assists. His matchup against Boise State’s Abu Kigab was a tough assignment that led to a foul.
“He’s a big guy,” Eytle-Rock said. “I felt like we could have made him shoot a couple more 3-pointers and not let him get close to the basket. That was on me a lot of the time so I just have to do a better job.”
Another contributing factor was turnovers. The Broncos had 12 turnovers, but Utah State lost the ball 18 times during the game. Eleven of them came during the second half.
“We have to be better in that category. Eighteen turnovers on the road is not going to get it done,” Odom said. “It’s certainly something that we have to improve upon.”
Boise State was able to capitalize on the loose balls, putting up 20 points off of turnovers.
Aggie starters also struggled to score during the game. Every starter but Eytle-Rock scored less than their season averages. Forward Justin Bean was especially affected. He only scored six points, but that is partially explained because he was in foul trouble early.
“Sometimes it’s not going to go down. I thought there were also times where their size and physicality bothered our guys at the rim,” Odom said.
Bench players like guard Zee Hamoda and center Szymon Zapala stepped up for the Aggies. Hamoda’s impact was felt primarily on offense. He scored 10 points in a career-high 21 minutes. Odom called Hamoda’s performance his “best game of the year.”
“Zee is very talented. He’s just a freshman so he’s just learning,” Eytle-Rock said. “He did a great job with his minutes today.”
With the loss, Utah State falls to 15-13 on the year. They are 6-9 in the Mountain West.
“We have a lot more work to do,” Eytle-Rock said. “As you saw, in the last two minutes, defensively we weren’t good enough tonight. We’ll do better in practice tomorrow and prepare for the next game.”
The Aggies’ next game is Tuesday at home. They will host New Mexico.