Queta's career high not enough as Aggies fall to Boise State in first game of Mountain West's top-tier tilt

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SALT LAKE CITY — After Utah State's brief run atop the Mountain West Conference, the Boise State Broncos took it right back Wednesday night.

Derrick Alston had 26 points and three assists, and Marcus Shaver Jr. added 12 points, four rebounds and two assists as Boise State regained the top spot in the Mountain West standings with a 79-70 win over Utah State at Extra Mile Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Neemias Queta had a career-high 32 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots to lead Utah State, which got 11 points, three rebounds and three assists from Marco Anthony. Justin Bean supplied 10 points and six rebounds for the Aggies, who shot just 18.8% from 3-point range.

Utah State's three 3-pointers (3 of 16) were the second-fewest in the 2020-21 season, with four players missing multiple shots from deep.

"What a battle. Both teams are really, really good, I think," Boise State coach Leon Rice told CBS Sports after the game. "Our guys showed a lot of character in battling back.

"Queta's a heckuva player; 32 and 10 tonight, and our guys were being physical with him. He's one of the best centers this league has seen in a long, long time."

Queta totaled the 22nd double-double of his Utah State career, and became the first Aggie to score 30 points in a single game since Sam Merrill a year ago.

Steven Ashworth had 3 points and six assists for Utah State (14-6, 11-3 MW).

Rollie Worster did not play for the Aggies, as the freshman guard was wearing a boot during pregame warmups. Utah State coach Craig Smith described it as a lower-leg injury in declaring him day-to-day.

"Rollie's a tough, tough kid," Smith said. "He's a high-level competitor, and one of those guys who wills his way. But we've got to approach it day-by-day, and we'll see how he is in a couple of days."

Still, while Queta admitted Utah State missed its freshman star, he also pinned the loss on the defensive end.

"I thought we did a pretty good job on the offensive end; we could score any time we wanted to," Queta said after the game. "But I felt like on the defensive end, we allowed a lot of shots. Kudos to them; they hit a lot of big shots. That's what good teams do.

"We just have to pick it up on the defensive end on Friday."

In the Aggies' first game in front of road fans all year with an announced crowd of 679, Queta earned his first foul just 14 seconds into the game. Still, the 7-foot Portuguese center finished the first half with 14 points and five rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting to keep Utah State within striking distance early and help the Aggies to a 39-37 halftime edge.

But the Broncos (17-4, 13-3 MW) held Utah State to two field goals during a 12-5 run to take a 60-56 lead with 10:05 left, and never looked back. Shaver capped a 6-0 spurt as Queta picked up his fourth foul to put the hosts up 71-64 with 4:10 to go, and the Broncos used a 9-2 run to pull away for a half-game lead on the Aggies atop the league standings.

"I know our 3-point shooting wasn't a thing of beauty. Some of them were clean looks, too; we just missed them," Smith said. "That's never been an excuse for us. We try not to make excuses. We've just got to be better. They're too good of a team, and too talented of a team, that they'll make you pay if you make a mistake."

Utah State lost for the third time in the past five games, though the Aggies had a 13-day break due to three consecutive cancellations to Fresno State and Wyoming in that span.

The Aggies and Broncos will tip off again Friday at 8 p.m. MT. The game can be seen on FS1.

"I don't think we'll do anything a whole lot different. I like our routine, and what we've been able to do in between (two-game series)," Smith said. "We'll just have to watch film, and see. By the looks of it, we need to get plenty of shots up — so we'll do that.

"It's a big game, obviously, and now we get another opportunity Friday to play another Quad 1 game. We're still playing for a league championship. We're still playing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. I know our guys will be fired up to play in about 47 hours."

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