Wyoming's last-second shot sinks Utah State in another conference loss

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LOGAN — With Utah State playing their first game in the Spectrum since before Christmas, and Wyoming playing their first game since Christmas Day, both sides seemed extra ready to play Saturday night.

The result? A rock fight.

Bodies were all over the floor diving for loose balls, Wyoming players chirped back at the rowdy student section, and an ordinarily cool-tempered Utah State head coach Ryan Odom lost his cool and picked up a technical foul.

In the end, Wyoming got the final punch, as Cowboys center Graham Ike made a move on Trevin Dorius and banked in the ball off the glass with three seconds to play to give Wyoming a 71-69 win over Utah State.

A gut-wrenching defeat.

The Aggies found themselves in a wire-to-wire finish for the fourth straight conference game, and, once again, struggled to shoot the ball at times and failed to get defensive stops down the stretch. The loss drops the Aggies to 1-3 in Mountain West Conference play.

"Tough loss," junior guard Rylan Jones said. "They're a good team. You know, just not much to say, just we've lost in the last possession three games in conference. We've just got to find a way to finish and come out on top."

"I thought we did a good enough job to get the job done," senior forward Justin Bean added. "Obviously, (they) scored 71 points, they killed us in the paint. But I think more than anything, shots weren't falling. We were kind of in our heads a little bit."

For much of the second half, the Aggies struggled to make open shots and shot 20% from beyond the arc. They also failed to prevent Ike and Hunter Maldonado from getting to the rim. The center and guard duo finished with 23 points and 21 points, respectively, and looked poised for victory.

Led by Jones and Bean, who both finished with 19 points apiece, the Aggies offense kicked into gear with just over four minutes left to play.

Utah State went on a 9-0 run that was capped off by an and-one layup from Jones to give the Aggies a 2-point lead with 1:33 to play. Wyoming reeled off a quick 4-0 run, but Bean hit a floater with 26 seconds left to tie the game at 69-69.

"Credit to our guys for finding a way to take the lead there and get back in it," Odom said.

Unfortunately for the Aggies, they couldn't get the final stop. After the Ike layup, a desperation 3-pointer at the horn from Jones banked out, and Utah State walked away with their third home loss of the season.

For the game, Utah State shot 40.6% from the field and 23.1% from 3-point range, while Wyoming shot 52.2% and 37.5% from beyond the arc.

Utah State was missing two starting guards — Brock Miller (back) and RJ Etyle-Rock (COVID-19) — Saturday and was inconsistent offensively, as they've been much of January. The Aggies started slow, missed their first seven 3-point attempts and Wyoming lept out to a 11-4 lead.

When Odom switched personnel by putting big men Dorius, Bean and Brandon Horvath on the court, the defense forced turnovers and the offense soon followed. Both Jones and Bean hit a pair of 3-pointers and the Aggies put up 21 points in the final minute of the first half.

In the second half, the physicality and whistles disrupted the flow of the game and seemed to stall the Utah State. A combined 35 fouls were called in the game and both teams were visibly upset with the officiating.

"It was just really heated at times, you know — really physical game," Bean said. "And so I guess you're gonna get a lot of fouls from that naturally. "

With 12:31 left in the game, it reached a boiling point. After a foul on Horvath, sending Ike to the line, Odom lost his temper. Efforts by assistant coaches Matt Henry and Bryce Crawford to constrain him failed, and he picked up a technical.

The ensuing two free throws from Maldonado proved to be the difference in the game.

"We ended up losing the game there by two at the end, and I gave them a couple buckets there. That's not what a coach is supposed to do to apologize to (the team) after the game."

Amidst the physicality, the shooting woes continued. The Aggies failed to score a bucket for three minutes with less than 10 eight minutes left to play.

"We knock them down in practice and we have all the confidence in the world in all of our guys that are shooting them," Bean said. "I didn't think they were bad shots; but again, we just got to keep going with the flow of the offense and just keep the ball hot, and we'll get the right shots and we'll end up making them."

The road forward doesn't get any easier. Utah State travels to Fresno State before hosting Boise State Thursday. The challenge will be to learn how to shoot the ball at a decent clip consistently — or figure out how to win close games.

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