LAS VEGAS – Utah State would love to leave its 39-point loss behind, but unfortunately for the Aggies, not everything that happens in Vegas stays there. Sometimes, you have to bring it home, and in this case, Utah State will have to take a 107-68 loss to UNLV, the latest in what’s now a six-game losing streak, back to Logan.
In their Mountain West Conference opener, the Aggies couldn’t keep pace with the class of the conference, falling to 3-9 on the season and starting off conference season with a 0-1 conference record. UNLV’s stellar season continues, as the Lady Rebels jump to a conference-best 11-1 overall record and tip off their own league season with a promising 1-0 start.
As expected, star forward Desi-Rae Young proved too much for the Aggies to handle, although her colossal performance was complemented by UNLV’s deep supporting cast. She led the way with 31 points, backed up by 14 from Jasmyn Lott, 13 from Ashley Scoggin, and 12 from Amarachi Kimpson.
Utah State relied heavily on its trio of freshmen, Lauren Crocker, Gracie Johnson, and Ali Wetta, to fill the game’s 40 minutes, with Johnson and Wetta each logging the most minutes of their young careers.
Crocker had two points in her 10 minutes, the most playing time she’s seen since her breakout game against Northern Colorado. Johnson played some quality minutes. Having logged only five minutes prior to this game, she was given a bit of a trial by fire, tasked with guarding the dominant Young. She couldn’t get on the board offensively, but she did grab a pair of rebounds. Wetta has been seeing between five and 10 minutes pretty consistently in her appearances so far, but was asked to put in 15 against UNLV. She had two points, an assist and a block.
Utah State’s offensive output wasn’t as bad as the deficit would indicate. In fact, the offense wasn’t that bad at all, given the circumstances. The Aggies were led by Cheyenne Stubbs who, in many ways, had a career outing. From a scoring perspective, Stubbs went toe-to-toe with one of the best players the Mountain West has to offer and was only bested by only one point. She set a new career-high with 30 points, accounting for just under half of the team’s total. She pulled it off with an elite performance from all three levels, shooting 7-15 from the field and burying her career-best five threes on nine attempts (55.6 percent). She notched another career-high for free throws, too, knocking down 11 on 14 attempts.
It wasn’t enough to vault the Aggies over the Rebels, but that’s an understandable shortcoming as UNLV is solidly among the nation’s top teams. Luckily for Utah State, most teams in the MWC are not quite as infallible as UNLV, and Stubbs adding an additional layer of excellence to her game could be more consequential against less Goliath-esque opponents.
In her 40 minutes of play, Stubbs added six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Although the offense mostly revolved around Stubbs and her all-time game, there were some other notable performances as well. Macy Smith, who started her fifth game this season, is continuing to back up that placement in Utah State’s first five. She had 10 points and was 3-8 from the field with a pair of triples.
With her 12 points against Western Colorado, she has now been the second-leading scorer for the Aggies in consecutive games (Stubbs had 16 against Western Colorado). The Aggies are in need of a reliable source of points behind Stubbs, and back-to-back solid performances from the junior is a promising sign. She also added three boards and had only one turnover in 31 minutes.
Ivory Finley had eight points and three rebounds. Samiana Suguturaga, who is quickly establishing herself as the team’s premier bench threat, had eight points, six rebounds and an assist.
The game wasn’t competitive for long. After a brief tie at 4-4, the Rebels promptly scored 12 unanswered points and wrested control of the affair. At the end of the first quarter, the Aggies trailed 28-12. With a 30-point second stanza, the Rebel lead grew further into the half. Unable to match just about any part of UNLV’s game, Utah State was down 58-33 at the break. The usual suspect, turnovers, made their obligatory appearance for Utah State, as the Rebels had 28 points off turnovers in the first half alone.
The Aggies improved but still gave up ground in the third frame. To Utah State’s credit, the team brought some energy into the third quarter of a game that was already over. Even with a comeback less likely than winning at a slot machine in the strip, Utah State scored 22 points in the third to 24 from UNLV. The game was out of hand for the entirety of the fourth quarter. Utah State only scored 13 points and, despite slowing down and going deep into its bench, UNLV inadvertently continued to score, racking up 25 points with its reserves.
The most concerning part about this loss isn’t what it says about the program, but what it doesn’t say. A loss at UNLV was all but a foregone conclusion coming into the game, so it's unfair to be overly disappointed in the result. But, that lack of disappointment is the problem itself. Expecting to lose, and not being surprised by a 30-plus point loss at the hands of a conference opponent is not a feeling Utah State fans want to be familiar with, no matter the foe.
Luckily for the Aggies, they still have a chance to change those expectations. With only one game of conference play behind them, the Aggies have a mostly clean slate going into the remainder of the MWC season. Just about every team in the league has a likely loss (or two, in most cases) on the books against UNLV, and Utah State can still hope to put its non-conference schedule in the past with the arrival of conference play.
Up next is a home bout against Wyoming – and in some good news for the Aggies, UNLV isn't on the schedule again until March, in the final game of the regular 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.