Second-half Utah State comeback falls short as Colorado State edges out the Aggies

Utah State guard Rylan Jones (15) brings the ball up court in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against BYU Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Provo, Utah.

Utah State guard Rylan Jones (15) brings the ball up court in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against BYU Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)

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LOGAN — Playing their third-straight conference game on the road, there was no question it would be a battle for Utah State basketball against an 11-1 Colorado State team Wednesday night.

Led by Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy, the Rams are shoe-ins for the NCAA Tournament and haven't lost at home since January 2021.

The Aggies gave them all they could handle, though, overcoming yet another double-digit second-half deficit to take a 62-60 lead with 4:37 left. But the Aggies couldn't finish down the stretch.

Fueled by Roddy, who had a game-high 24 points, the Rams responded by going on a 7-0 run and then made all their free throws down the stretch. A potential game-tying 3-point shot with 13 seconds left from Brandon Horvath was too strong, and Colorado State went on to defeat Utah State 77-72.

"Just really proud of the team and how we fought back in the second half," junior Sean Bairstow said. "We stuck together. And I think we made some timely plays — just needed to make a couple more. Not much really to say, just proud of the boys and the effort we put forward."

"Colorado State was able to make the plays that they needed to make in order to finish it out," head coach Ryan Odom said.

Similar to Saturday night, when four Utah State players finished with double digits during an overtime win over New Mexico, the Aggies ramped up the intensity in the second half, thanks to the efforts of key individuals, and nearly managed to pull off the marquee Quad 1 victory.

Bairstow, who made a second-consecutive start over the injured Brock Miller, had a career high 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The 6-foot-8 guard's ability to break down defenders off the dribble — something other Aggies players struggle to do — kept Utah State within striking distance while other players seemed passive.

Steven Ashworth, who scored no points in the first half, rattled off 10 straight points for the Aggies in the second half and finished 7 of 8 from the free throw line for 13 points.

Trailing by 10 with 10:58 to play, Ashworth's hustle triggered the Aggies' comeback. He dove for a loose ball and was shoved by Stevens, forcing the turnover and getting himself at the freethrow line. Ashworth's lone miss at the line, he collected his own rebound and knocked down a 3-point jumper to cut the deficit to six with 9:30 to play.

"Steven Ashworth was tremendous, you know, in terms of helping us do that," Odom said. "He was able to edge guys and kind of get in there."

Justin Bean also contributed and had 14 points, including a mid-range jumper from the baseline to give the Aggies the lead late in the game before fouling out with 1:04 left to play.

In a foul heavy game — there were a combined 39 personal fouls — the Aggies as a whole were effective from the line, going 18 of 22.

Colorado State was more aggressive and outplayed Utah State on the boards (32-31), in the turnover margin (9-12) and in assists (11-10).

The biggest difference, however, was from beyond the arch where the Rams shot 10 of 27, as opposed to just 4 of 18 from the Aggies.

The 3-point shot, which ultimately doomed the Aggies, threatened to not make the game competitive. Odom's squad continued to give up open looks through the man-to-man defense. Rams guards, including Stevens, who was 3 of 3 from 3-point range, took advantage.

In the second half, the Aggies adjusted defensive and nearly changed the outcome of the game.

In the end, though, the 3-pointer sealed the deal. After Bean gave the Aggies a 2-point lead, Roddy came down the court and drilled a 3-pointer at the top of the key and the Rams never relinquished the lead.

"That's a learning thing for us. You cannot allow the other team's best player to just stand there and shoot," Odom said. "You've got to force him to do something different, dribble into a shot or something."

Looking to bounce back from their second conference loss, the Aggies finally return home where they'll take on Wyoming on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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