Brown’s clutch three(s) save Utah State from upset at Fresno State – Cache Valley Daily

Utah State’s Darius Brown II motions to the crowd after hitting a 3-pointer against Fresno State during overtime in an NCAA college basketball game in Fresno, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

Darius Brown hit five field goals for Utah State in its Tuesday night 77-73 overtime win over Fresno State. His 15 points weren’t all that remarkable as seven other players on the night reached at least that same total. But all five were badly needed, especially his final two attempts of the evening.

The Aggies should never have needed clutch play from anyone in its mid-week matchup with Fresno State. The Bulldogs were ninth in the Mountain West standings, the Aggies first. FSU were on a three-game losing streak and missing two starters and a third key rotation player due to injury, USU coming off a week’s rest and a massive win over San Diego State that rocketed the team back into the AP Poll. And yet, with 7.5 seconds left in the game, the Bulldogs led 65-62, a pair of Xavier DuSell free throws having extended the home team’s lead.

Brown, unfazed by the daunting task ahead of him, took the inbound pass, hurried up the court, pump-faked a defender, and then drilled a 30-foot bank shot triple.

“I knew the situation was three. And I was really concerned that they were going to foul,” Brown said. “I thought they were going to foul and send us to the line and play the free throw game to send us to the line and then they had the lead no matter what, but they didn’t. And then I knew I was like, ‘OK, as long as I get close enough, I should be able to get it off.’”

It’s the second time Brown has hit a 3-pointer to tie a game in the final second of regulation, as he also hit the triple that tied the game at UNLV (that also led to Great Osobor hitting his two free throws for the infamous five-point play).

Being in that situation was a bit of an embarrassment for Utah State and it was a largely its own doing, despite the Aggies reigned supreme in multiple notable statistical categories. They outshot Fresno State 52 percent to 42, had a 39-29 rebound advantage and had 29 free throw attempts to FSU’s 12. But in two key aspects, the Aggies were woefully inept: turnovers and actually making those free throws. Utah State committed a season-worst 17 turnovers and made only 19 of those 29 free throws (66 percent).

“Our guards got to play better. At this time of year, guard plays wins games,” Sprinkle said. “And for us to have 15, 16 turnovers combined between our guards, that’s unacceptable.”

The worst moments for the Aggies actually came after they took their two biggest leads, 16-8 and 47-39. In the minutes following the establishment of both eight-point leads, USU gave up runs to Fresno State, an 8-0 one on the earlier occasion to allow the game to be tied, and then a 12-2 run on the latter instance that actually gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game with 8:53 left. And for most of those roughly nine minutes, the Bulldogs retained that lead.

Utah State’s Mason Falslev drives by Fresno State’s Isaac Taveras (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fresno, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

After Brown’s game-saving 3-pointer, though, the Aggies got new life. Getting an extra five minutes to rectify the mistakes of the previous 40 was pretty much all they could ask for when there were only 7.5 seconds on the clock.

“My mind was like, ‘I’m gonna just get to overtime, please, and then we’ll finish it,’” Brown said of his thoughts right before his game-tying shot.

Although a chance to prove itself in overtime was what the Aggies wanted, they didn’t separate there either. Through four-and-a-half minutes of OT, the game sat tied 73-all.

And that’s where Brown’s second massive shot of the game came into play.

Brown, dribbling on the left wing, was trying to feed the ball into the post for Osobor. But with Fresno State doing a good enough job of denying an entry pass, Brown decided to let fly from deep and nailed it with 34 seconds left on the clock.

“The way I was feeling, I knew if I had an inch of space, I felt really good about anything going in,” Brown said.

After the game, Sprinkle didn’t have too much positive to say about his team’s performance, other than the most important thing, winning the game.

“Some teams find ways to lose games and some teams find ways to win games,” Sprinkle said. “And this team, for whatever reason, like we’ve been dead in the water a bunch of times this year and they just they keep believing and keep fighting and somebody makes a big shot.”

The Aggies will gladly take this win, regardless of how perilous it was. It saved them from dropping down to second place as a loss would have put them behind Boise State (who smacked Air Force by 31) and into a tie with San Diego State for second place.

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