LOGAN – Utah State suffered a heartbreaker on Monday night, in a game that may haunt the Aggies as they prepare now to enter Mountain West play. After fighting back from a 10-point deficit, the Aggies led by six points with just over two minutes left but still managed to fall to the Western Colorado Mountaineers, 51-49.
Though the win doesn't count in the official record books for Western Colorado, a Division II school (matchups against DI schools aren't included in the overall record for those programs), it was still quite the achievement for a 2-8 squad from a lower level of competition.
For Utah State, which has now lost five in a row, it's a disaster to close out non-conference play. The Aggies will carry a 3-8 record and that losing streak into MWC play, which starts at UNLV – the toughest MWC team of them all. The Aggies are also now 2-4 at home, making them the only team in the conference with a losing record on their home court.
Kayla Ard and Co. now find themselves in a tough spot, as they were in desperate need of a win with hopes to right the ship and build some momentum going into a difficult conference slate. Instead, they seem to have taken several steps in the wrong direction, given the loss to a Division II team with only two wins.
There’s no way around the fact that Utah State was wholly outplayed in the first half, either. Utah State had 10 turnovers, seven of which came in the second quarter, with only five assists and six fouls, while shooting 6-28 from the field, 4-17 from three and 2-4 from the free-throw line. Only four Aggies scored in the game's opening frames, and most of the team's production came from one player. It was the usual suspect, as Cheyenne Stubbs had 12 points to go with three from Macy Smith, two from Isabella Tañedo and one for Samiana Suguturaga. Utah State trailed 26-18 at the half.
The Aggies continued to give up ground in the second half until midway through the third quarter, when Ivey Schmidt knocked down a three-pointer at the 6:37 mark – giving the Mountaineers a 10-point lead (their largest), and forcing Ard to call a timeout.
At that point, the difference between Division I and Division II – which was astonishingly small for most of the affair – shone through as Utah State began to reverse course and inch closer. By the end of the third quarter, the Aggies had turned the contest into a one-possession game and trailed 39-37. With the clock stopped at 7:14 in the fourth quarter, Smith tied the game at 41 on the front half of a pair of free throws. Then, with 6:37 to play, Stubbs found a basket and the Aggies regained the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
Even as the clock approached two minutes, at the 2:24 mark, the Aggies held a six-point lead and looked primed to hold on against their pesky visitors. A pair of free throws from Alyssa Eckroth brought the Mountaineers closer, but the Aggies still had a two-possession, 49-45 lead with 1:57 to play.
That disappeared when, with 45 seconds left, Rachel Cockman nailed a three-pointer to bring the Mountaineers within one.
Utah State couldn’t answer and after a defensive rebound and a timeout, Western Colorado inbounded the ball under Utah State’s basket with 17 seconds on the clock. With time continuing to slip away quickly, Jayda Maves caught a pass from Schmidt, took a one-dribble jab step then stabbed back, putting up a no-doubter from deep. Maves helped her hand up and backpedaled as the ball found the bottom of the net with 3.9 seconds left, putting Western Colorado on top for good.
Stubbs tried her best to tie the game, but her last-second shot bounded up over the backboard as the final buzzer sounded.
Cockman torched the Aggies, recording a double-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Schmidt also found some success, recording 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.
It doesn’t provide much consolation, but Utah State narrowly won a few statistical battles. The Aggies outrebounded the Mountaineers 46-42, gave up 13 turnovers to Western Colorado’s 14, and had 12 assists compared to 11. Western Colorado only shot 30.9 percent from the field, but the Aggies were a dreadful 27.4 percent, shooting just 17 of 62 on the game.
Stubbs bounced back nicely from her slow game against Northern Colorado and got back to leading the Aggies, with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal.
Behind Stubbs, Macy Smith had a nice game. She didn't shoot especially well, but she put up a season-high of 12 points and added five rebounds, two assists and three steals to her night. Tiairra Hill-Brown and Skye Miller each had six points and Ivory Finley had four.
After a breakout performance against Northern Colorado, Lauren Crocker only played five minutes in this outing. The bench combined for only five points, with three from Suguturaga and two from Tañedo. Sutuguraga also had nine rebounds, two assists, and a block.
Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.