LAS VEGAS – Utah State had chances both in regulation and in overtime to seal a win Saturday night at UNLV, a place they haven’t beat the Rebels since the 1994-95 season. Instead the Aggies lost 79-77 and fell to 4-3 in Mountain West play and 11-8 overall.
At one point near the end of regulation, victory looked almost certain for USU. Sophomore Jalen Moore had just hit three free throws to give the Aggies a five-point lead with a barely more than one minute remaining. Rebel fans started to leave the arena in masses.
Some would soon return and others probably wished they would have stayed.
After his three-point play, Moore was fouled again and returned to the free throw line after grabbing a rebound on the other end of the court, but missed the front end of the one-and-one. UNLV then capitalized by hitting three free throws of their own.
Moore returned to the line once more during regulation and so did junior guard Darius Perkins, but each made just one of their two shots allowing UNLV’s Patrick McCaw to tie the game with three seconds left on the clock and send the game into overtime. One more made free throw could have put the game out of reach.
“We had our chances on the free throws,” Moore said. “I had my chances.”
The Aggies scored the first six points in overtime, but once again, UNLV fought back. A 3-pointer by McCaw tied the game at 75 with 1:26 left. Freshman David Collette and UNLV’s Christian Wood each traded baskets to bring the score to 77 all. That’s when sophomore guard JoJo McGlaston took the potential game winning shot with less than five seconds left.
“He actually didn’t have that bad of a look,” Moore said. “It just came off short.”
The ball was rebounded by UNLV’s Cody Doolin. In an attempt to get the ball, Collette reached over Doolin and was called for a foul with two seconds left on the clock, giving Doolin two free throws. He hit them both, and UNLV won.
“No explanation for the play at the end of the game,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “It should have went to double-overtime. I have zero explanation for that. I don’t understand that all. I’m sure he doesn’t understand what he was doing either.”
Morrill said they “gift wrapped” the game and gave it to UNLV.
“As disturbing as that, is how many chances we had to win in regulation,” Morrill said. “Just chance after chance. Just silly fouls. Give them some credit. They threw in some shots but boy we gave them every opportunity.”
The Aggies trailed most of the game, but made it close in the second half. After being down by 10 points near the end of the first half, USU topped off an 8-0 run with a Perkins 3-pointer. With 14:23 remaining in the game, USU had their first lead. After that, it was a back-and-forth battle with seven more lead changes and five more ties.
“We’ve been down a lot of times this season at the end of the first half,” Moore said. “We come out in the second half and we know what we’ve got to do to get the lead back or at least tie the game and give us a chance to win.”
Rebounding has been a struggle for the young USU team this season, but the Aggies were able to win the rebounding battle 42-33. Moore had 14 rebounds and McGlaston added 10.
“We ended up winning the rebounds for I think the first time this season,” Moore said. “We did better in that category.”
Collette led the Aggies in scoring with 24 points. Perkins had 19 and Moore added 12. The Aggies return to the Spectrum Tuesday January 27 to take on Wyoming. The Cowboys are alone atop the Mountain West standings with a 6-1 conference record.
“We’ve got a chance to redeem ourselves Tuesday,” Perkins said. “That would be nice to get that one.”