USU falls in overtime after 15-point comeback

LOGAN – Utah State lost its final game of the World Vision Classic 68-65 in overtime to South Dakota State Saturday night. When the final buzzer in regulation sounded, the game was tied at 61, but South Dakota State’s potential game-winning tip-in was still rolling around the rim. The ball didn’t fall in, and the game went to overtime.

The missed shot was the last needed piece of a 15-0 Aggie run in the final 5:45 of the game. USU was able to make the huge second-half comeback to tie the game, but wasn’t able to do it again in overtime after falling behind by seven.

“We fought there, the kids should feel good about that,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They didn’t just die. When they were down double digits they just kept competing.”

For the Aggies, the game started out well. South Dakota State got the first bucket, but the next 11 points belonged to USU. The nine-point lead would be the largest the Aggies would get. After that, it slowly dwindled. The Jackrabbits tied it up with 5:47 left in the half on a Cody Larson layup. A little more than one minute later, Larson scored two more to give the Jackrabbits the lead. Things got worse for the Aggies in the second half.

“We had just a lull there in the second half where we missed free throws and things weren’t going very well,” Morrill said. “We just didn’t have much energy.”

The Aggies found themselves with a 61-46 deficit with less than six minutes to work with.

“We knew we had to lock down defensively, we did that,” sophomore Jalen Moore said. “I mean, they didn’t score for a little bit. We knew we had to get every rebound … We came down, we were hitting shots, getting to the line for easy buckets and free throws.”

The comeback was successful enough to get five more minutes of game time, but two free throws from Larson and five points from guard Deondre Parks gave the Jackrabbits a 68-61 overtime lead the Aggies were unable to recover from.

“They were making shots at the start of overtime and we couldn’t get any to fall,” Moore said. “Toward the end we started scoring again, almost too late.”

David Collette led the Aggies in scoring with 19 and Moore added another 14. Despite the loss, Morrill said he saw some positives from his inexperienced team, including improved rebounding. The Aggies have struggled on the boards this season, but were only outrebounded 44-42 Saturday – an improvement from previous games.

“We took it upon ourselves that we need to rebound better,” Moore said. “Give us a chance in games, you know.”

The Aggies have one more game before conference play starts on December 31 against San Jose State. Utah State will host Wayland Baptist December 27 at 7 p.m.

“Every game is going to be hard in (conference),” Moore said. “If we play harder than our opponents we should be able to hang with anybody in our conference and that’s what we need to learn to do.”

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