Las Vegas • There wasn’t single defining factor in Utah State’s 62-42 loss at UNLV on Wednesday night — many things went wrong.
And just about all of them raise troubling questions about the Aggies’ ability to stay competitive in the Mountain West this year.
“We just weren’t playing Aggie basketball,” freshman Jalen Moore said.
Although the Aggies were a man down without injured starter Kyle Davis, that was not enough to explain away a monumentally disappointing game for Utah State. The shooting was cold, the rebounding lackluster, the passing lacking its usual crispness. At times, UNLV simply flew past and over the Aggies for rebounds and dunks.
Unlike previous road game losses at Air Force, Nevada and Boise State, there was no second-half comeback. Legions of Rebels fans flooded out of the Thomas & Mack Center with more than three minutes to spare, assured in the home team’s win.
“It’s sometimes real simple: You gotta make some shots,” coach Stew Morrill said. “You can take that any way you want, but that’s all there is to it.”
Utah State’s offense, the strength of the team for so much of the season, failed to generate many open looks as the team shot only 30.8 percent from the floor for its worst performance from of the year. That included a dismal 2-for-17 mark from 3-point range, where the Aggies got some of their best free chances.
With the exception of senior center Jarred Shaw, who had a team-best 14 points, there weren’t many scoring answers. Preston Medlin was shot 1 for 6 for three points, while Spencer Butterfield was 3 for 9 for seven. The best-passing team in the Mountain West had only four assists.
The toughest part to swallow was that, defensively, Utah State held UNLV to only 38.2 percent shooting. But the Rebels’ 44-29 rebounding edge — including 14 offensive rebounds — all but negated the low percentages. UNLV scored 15 points off second chances.
“It was exactly what happened in Boise State, too, they got rebounds,” Moore said. “We’re just going to have to work on rebounding and boxing out.”
The Aggies were leading for a good chunk of the first half, but out of a 19-19 tie, UNLV went on a 15-5 burst in the final six minutes of the half. Down by 10 to start the second period, the Aggies never recovered.
“We had the pace of the game where we kind of wanted it,” Morrill said. “We were right there and the wheels kind of came off.”
The double-digit lead grew in the second half as the Aggies struggled to find their offense. For a long stretch in the final 10 minutes, Morrill benched most of the team’s starters in favor of backups Ben Clifford, Danny Berger, Jojo McGlaston and Viko Noma’aea. The reserve lineup held its own, not allowing the Rebels to build much of a lead, but didn’t eat at the gap much either.
Utah State struggles in Vegas
• The Aggies shoot season-low 30.8 percent
• Jarred Shaw leads USU with 14 points and eight rebounds
• UNLV earns a 44-29 advantage on the glass