RENO — Utah State has broken a 13-game losing streak and earned its first conference win of the season, as it found a way to fight past Nevada on the road. Cheyenne Stubbs led the Aggies past the Wolf Pack in Reno, earning a 65-62 victory – Utah State's first in league play since it toppled Fresno State on Jan. 16, 2023. The Aggies move to 4-16 (1-8) with the win, while the loss drops Nevada to 11-11 (5-4).
Audrey Roden got the Wolf Pack started, scoring on the first possession of the game and sparking a 12-2 run to open the game, answered only by a Samiana Suguturaga layup. It was the type of run that the Aggies had seen before, and that has ended more than its fair share of games for Kayla Ard's squad.
This time, the Aggies staggered, but didn’t let the game get out of reach early. Ivory Finley hit a layup for the team's second score of the game, briefly halting the run, though Izzy Sullivan hit a three-pointer to extend Nevada's lead further on the other end. Utah State again had an answer, and this one stuck. Stubbs hit a pair of layups and a free throw to end the frame with the Aggies trailing 16-9 – far from ideal, but nowhere near as bad as it could have been.
Although the Aggies trailed for the entirety of the quarter, they just wouldn’t go away in the second frame. The Wolf Pack led by as many as 11 points when Lee Kennedy hit a free throw with 5:27 left in the half, but Utah State started to sneak back in over the latter minutes of the period. Bridget Mullings responded with a bucket, Stubbs followed that with a three-pointer, and then Isabella Tañedo stepped up to the line and hit her two shots, bringing the Aggies within four, 25-21, with 3:32 in the half. Nevada fought desperately to create more space from its 3-16 visitors, but couldn’t seem to get away.
Trailing 30-25 with 6.2 seconds left in the half, Utah State had the opportunity to inbound the ball and play for the last shot of the half. Stubbs inbounded to Tañedo near mid-court for a quick handoff back to the star guard, who tried to shake off her defender using Tañedo’s screen. Nevada handled it well, but Stubbs was not phased, driving to her right and hitting an acrobatic layup at the buzzer. The Aggies were within three points, and had 20 minutes to overcome the small deficit.
Mullings trimmed the Nevada lead down by two more points to open the second half, and Stubbs went to the line with a chance to tie or take the lead, opting for the former as she split her tries.
Utah State has been here before, though, and found a similar result this time around as Victoria Davis hit a three for the answer. The Aggies have seen this story, and they don't like how it ends. As Stubbs missed a pair of tries from deep and Tañedo split two free throws, Nevada pushed back ahead by four points.
It was Finley who kicked off a pivotal sequence for the Aggies in response. With 5:25 on the clock, she hit a three to make it a one-point game, and as she backpedaled across the timeline – her follow-through hand still raised – the Wolf Pack rushed the inbound pass and Stubbs picked it off. She dished it to Tañedo, who fought for a layup. Utah State, which usually finds itself on the other side of moments like that one, had taken the lead. It was a fragile one, however, and Lexie Givens quickly hit a layup to put Nevada back on top. Stubbs wasn’t having it and snatched the lead right back, 38-37 for the Aggies.
The Nevada surge was coming, though, and arrived just in time to close out the quarter. Utah State ended the period with five consecutive turnovers, and Nevada gladly took the lead back, carrying a 43-38 edge into the last stanza.
As the fourth quarter began and with the game on the cusp of spiraling again, Macy Smith stepped up and kept the Aggies alive with one of the best plays of their season, drilling a three-pointer through contact and adding a fourth point onto the board at the free-throw line. Utah State capitalized on the moment, deploying its full-court press and generating a steal for Suguturaga, who took three dribbles and laid the ball in. These Aggies, now in front by a point with 8:11 to play, weren't backing down.
With 6:00 to go, Nevada took its final lead of the game, as Maxie Dymonique broke a 48-point tie with the first half of a pair of free throws. Stubbs, who has seen far too many of her excellent individual efforts wasted on the final scoreboard, wasn't letting this one get away.
She rattled off seven unanswered points to give the Aggies a 55-49 lead, slicing through the defense for tough jumpers in the lane and, when given the space, drilling a step-back three. The guard wasn't done. In the last six minutes, Stubbs outscored Nevada 15-13, shooting 4 of 6 from the field, and 6 of 8 from the line.
Utah State stumbled once, letting Nevada back within one on a Davis three, but it regained its poise and closed the game out with the late-game reliability that has evaded this squad all season. It avoided turnovers across the final three minutes, hit the free throws it needed to hit, and bolstered a seven-point lead with 22 seconds to play. Nevada scored the final four points, but the Wolf Pack were simply out of time. At long last, the Aggies had done it.
Stubbs was unstoppable. She set a new career high with 32 points and needed nearly every single one of them to muscle her team to victory. She added seven rebounds, two assists and three steals to her heroic scoring performance, doing everything she was asked to and more. Outside of missing a pair of free throws with a five-point lead and 14 seconds remaining, she was nearly flawless in the final frame, scoring 19 points without once leaving the floor.
Beyond Stubbs' superstar performance, Utah State picked up critical plays from Finley – who finished with nine points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals – Smith and Suguturaga. The former was crucial in the clutch, ending the night with seven points and four rebounds, needing only three field goal attempts to get there. Like Smith, the way Suguturaga carried herself was more impressive than the numbers she logged. She finished four points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Tañedo merits a mention as well, scoring five points, and adding one board and a steal.
It’s hard to tell what this win really means for the Aggies. They've played well on the road before, only to come up short and flounder in the games to follow because of the energy they expended. There's really no way to know how a win changes that calculus, because this team has had just four of them all season.
One thing this win isn’t, however, is a fluke. Nevada is a strong, well-coached basketball team, and the Aggies outplayed it. They won the rebounding battle by 11, shot nearly 10 percentage points better from the field, and had the best player on the floor by a wide margin. That's a legitimate path to victory in the MWC.
Utah State will look to keep its new momentum as it hosts the Fresno State Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies lost 90-64 in Fresno, and will have the opportunity to return the favor in Logan.
Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.