LOGAN – Utah State played well in the first half but fell apart in the third quarter, letting San Diego State blow by, 76-62, as the Aggies suffered their 13th consecutive loss, matching their 13-game losing streak to end the 2022-23 season. They fall to 3-16 (0-8) while the Aztecs advance to 13-8 (4-4).
The Aggies desperately needed a win to get things back on track, or at least to attempt to salvage the remainder of the season. They got off to a good start, but in the second half, those hopes faded in yet another tough defeat to a conference foe.
Even a competitive loss would have been a consolation, but as the game went on, even that seemed too tall a task. While there were a few performances that looked like a step in the right direction, and the 14-point deficit was certainly favorable when compared to the trio of blowouts that preceded it, the Aggies were thoroughly outplayed down the stretch and didn’t provide much quality when it counted.
Cheyenne Stubbs got the Aggies started in a hurry, getting to the basket and scoring on their first possession. After Abby Prohaska hit a free throw, Stubbs scored again, giving the Aggies a 5-1 lead early. Kim Villalobos hit a jumper to cut the Aggie lead to two, then Samiana Suguturaga, who got her second career start at Utah State, grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back up for two. A pair of Ivory Finley free throws put the Aggies ahead by six with 4:51 to play in the first quarter. The Aztecs fought back to tie the game nine with 1:55, and Macy Smith hit a corner three to give the Aggies the lead at the first break, 14-11.
The second quarter was strikingly similar – the Aggies started strong, the Aztecs fought back, forced a pair of ties, and the Aggies got the last laugh. The quarter started with the teams trading buckets. Livia Knapp got the Aggies started and pushed the lead to five, Villalobos brought it back to three, from which it bounced between five and three across the next three minutes. The Aztecs couldn’t catch up, but the Aggies couldn’t get away, until Jada Lewis broke the holding pattern with a three-pointer at the 6:43 mark to tie the game.
Utah State wrestled the lead back, but a few moments later, Prohaska tied the game again at 26 apiece. With halftime approaching, Finley drove to the basket and got her layup to fall, giving the Aggies the lead again. They forced a huge stop on the other end with a missed layup from Adryana Quezada, sending Utah State into the half with a 28-26 lead.
Many factors had to break in favor of the Aggies to allow them to lead at the break, and chief among them was the turnover battle, in which Utah State performed admirably. The Aggies were even with the Aztecs, forcing and giving up eight turnovers, which is well above the usual average for this squad.
The Aggies came out of the half strong, securing back-to-back putbacks from Tiairra Hill-Brown to claim an eight-point lead, the largest of the night for the hosts, with 6:14 left in the third. That lead quickly deteriorated. The Aztecs went on an 11-0 run to eclipse the Aggies, though Stubbs wasn’t going down without a fight. She withstood the surge and hit a three to tie the game for the fifth and final time.
That burst was short-lived without help arriving elsewhere. The Aztecs immediately went on a 7-0 run, which again was broken up by a three from Stubbs, but it was too little too late. The quarter ended with with Aztecs on top 51-44.
It was the first game since their trip to New Mexico that the Aggies weren’t trailing by double digits heading into the fourth. The Aggies were still losing and momentum was not in their favor, as the third period ended on a 20-8 run, but buoyed up by their first-half performance, but Utah State was at least still in the game.
Unfortunately for Utah State, the fourth quarter went similarly to the third. The Aztecs opened the period with yet another Mia Davis three, which was becoming a common occurrence, to claim a 10-point lead. Finley hit a free throw and Stubbs drained another three to cut the SDSU lead to six, the smallest of the quarter, but San Diego State answered with a 19-4 run to all but secure the final result, rushing out to a 73-52 lead with 3:19 to play.
The Aztecs had four players in double digits – three starters and a backup. The freshman, Davis, took the Aggies by surprise in a breakout performance. Coming off the bench, she had her career high of 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting and an outstanding 5 of 8 performance from behind the arc. She added a rebound, an assist and three steals to her attention-grabbing stat line.
The former Aggie, Quezada, unsurprisingly, had an excellent performance. She went 6 of 11 from the field and a perfect 8 of 8 from the line against her old team, and had 20 points, eight rebounds and an assist.
On Utah State’s side, the performances were less spectacular, though there were still some standouts. Stubbs was 7 of 17 from the field and 5 of 7 from three, her best shooting night from deep all year. She had a game-high of 21 points with an assist and four steals. Finley added another 13 points with six rebounds and an assist. Stubbs, Finley, and Suguturaga were the only starters who scored for the Aggies.
Kayla Ard's squad will get a week to retreat and recover ahead of their trip to Reno for their first rematch of the season.
Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.