Utah State forward Brandon Horvath (4) lowers his head following the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Colorado State in the quarterfinals of Mountain West Conference men’s tournament Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
LAS VEGAS — Utah State’s run in the Mountain West Basketball Championship, and possibly the postseason, came to an end on Thursday night. Colorado State eked out a win over the Aggies, 53 to 51.
“I thought it was a really good college basketball game, overall,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “Points were hard to come by. Defense was pretty solid. The intensity was what you would want in a tournament setting.”
With the defeat, thoughts of Aggie fans look toward the impending decision of forward Justin Bean. He has a year of eligibility remaining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but his performance this year was good enough for Bean to go pro.
“I know there’s a lot of speculation out there,” Bean said. “I mean, that’s going to be a conversation that my wife and I, obviously, have… involving coach Odom as much as we can. That’s going to be something that we discuss for sure.”
Bean grabbed 13 rebounds on the night but his first two made the greatest impact in the history books. The second board was Bean’s 1,000th career rebound. He is the third Aggie to total that many in school history and the second Mountain West player to accomplish that.
“That’s a really awesome accolade for sure,” Bean said. “Very humbling. There’s a lot of Aggie greats that have gone before me, certainly, and just to be in that company is an honor. I’m just grateful.”
For Odom, Bean’s character extends beyond his performance on the court tonight and throughout the season.
“What an amazing example of what college basketball is supposed to be all about,” Odom said. “Great student, great family man, loves his immediate family. He cherishes his wife. He loves his teammates. He comes to work in our program every single day and he sets the example of how a Utah State player should behave. How a Utah State player should respond when you don’t get what you want.”
Bean and Odom sat with a moderator on a dais following the game. While talking about Bean, Odom looked to his right, made eye-contact with Bean and began to tear up.
“He’s just a special guy,” Odom said.
Bean extended the same respect and admiration for his coach later in the press conference.
“I just can’t say enough about Coach Odom and who he is as a person,” Bean said. “I’ve only played for him for one season, but I feel like I’ve known him a lifetime. And that’s just the type of person that he is. He welcomes all of us with open arms. He always talks about how we brought him or welcomed him to Utah State, but he really is that father figure, that example that we needed in the transition.”
As for the nitty-gritty of the game, the Rams’ two-point margin of victory spells out how close it was. There were 10 lead changes, four ties and each team led for more than 10 minutes of play.
Three key moments seemed to determine the outcome of the game in the final minutes. First, with 1:58 left after missing a layup, guard Sean Bairstow was called for a personal foul. David Roddy, a Colorado State forward and the Mountain West Player of the Year, had gone for a defensive rebound over Bairstow but was tripped up by Bairstow falling to the ground after his missed shot. Roddy made one of the two free throws he shot to put the Rams up 49-47.
The second determining moment came with the Aggies down 51-49. Guard Steven Ashworth stole the ball and started a Utah State fastbreak. With 13 seconds left, Ashworth dished to Bean. Two Rams scrambled in front of Bean and a collision ensued. Bean was called for a charge.
The call was questioned by outside observers. CBS Sports Network’s Wally Szczerbiak called it “one of the worst calls (he’s) ever seen.” Immediately following the play, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt tweeted, “I give up on block/charge. Honestly, I do. It’s so, so bad in college basketball it is beyond comprehension.”
Even the baseline official initially ruled a block.
Bean thought it was a block.
“Saw two guys come in front of me and I tried to split them,” Bean said. “I thought I had the angle and I thought they were late. But, again, that’s just basketball. You can’t blame the refs.”
Despite this momentum-changing call, Kendle Moore, a Ram guard, missed the free-throw he was awarded from the charge he drew.
Third, a personal foul on Roddy after Moore’s free-throw attempt. It seemed like officials called Roddy for illegal over-the-back contact while he and Bean scuffled for the rebound. Bean was awarded one-and-one free throws due to the bonus. Bean sank both to tie the game at 51 with 12 seconds left.
On the final possession of the game, Chandler Jacobs, a Ram guard, made his only shot of the game. With less than two seconds on the clock, Jacobs put in a layup against strong defense.
With 1.8 on the clock, the Aggies inbounded quickly, but Ashworth’s three-quarters-court heave came up short.
Bean, Bairstow and forward Brandon Horvath led the way for the Aggies statistically. They combined for 41 points, 25 rebounds and seven assists.
For now, all the Aggies can do is sit and wait for selection Sunday. They may have a chance at the NIT or another postseason tournament, but it will depend on the results of other games and the opinions of selection committees.
As for offseason plans, Odom has not given up hope for a postseason berth.
“If we’re fortunate enough to be in postseason or if it’s nothing,” Odom said. “We’ll deal with whatever comes our way with maturity and with a positive attitude. And then once the season is officially over, then we’ll begin to plan and prep, and figure out, all right, where can we get a little bit better?”