Logan • The Aggies had trouble finding the right answers on defense all Tuesday night.
Once Utah State adjusted to the early banging from New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow, they had to contend with the speed of Kendall Williams. Once they made some stops in transition, the Lobos simply shot the lights out.
Utah State (12-8, 2-6 MW) lost its fourth straight game as the Lobos came prepared for a shootout and the Aggies couldn’t find a way to either stop them or keep up in a 78-65 defeat. Although a second-half surge made it as close as two points, New Mexico pulled away thanks to late domination on the glass and second-chance attempts.
The Aggies finished one of their most critical stretches of the season 0-4, and they looked overmatched athletically for stretches of their latest loss.
“They pretty much dominated both halves,” coach Stew Morrill said. “They’re hard to guard.”
Jarred Shaw, the team’s leading scorer with 15 points, came out of the half charging. The lanky center had 11 second-half points to wipe out most of a 12-point gap, and a Preston Medlin 3-pointer brought the game within two points with nine minutes to go.
But a late push by Bairstow, who had a game-high 22 points, stretched out the margin again. A nine-point deficit in the final minute grew as the Aggies searched in vain for offense.
The Lobos outrebounded the Aggies 36-30, and got 14 offensive rebounds — the fifth straight opponent to get double-digit offensive boards off of Utah State. For the game, New Mexico shot better than 45 percent and had 15 points off of second chances.
Guarding the Lobos was a task. Morrill wasn’t impressed with his team’s defense on ball screens, and Bairstow muscled his way into the paint or got extra attempts at the line. Eventually, the hole became too deep.
“You can always come back and come on your own 9-0 run or 10-0 run, but they’re going to eventually stop your run and start scoring,” said Kyle Davis, who saw his first action back from a knee injury. “We’ve got to figure out how to not fall behind in what we’re doing, and that will be a big emphasis in practice for sure.”
Davis had 10 points and five rebounds with two blocks in his first appearance in three games. Medlin was one of Utah State’s biggest creators on offense, scoring 13 and dishing out half of the Aggies’ 18 assists.
Utah State stayed with the Lobos at the start, hitting five of its first six 3-pointers to hang with one of the Mountain West’s toughest scoring teams. But points inside the arc became a struggle: In the first half, Utah State only shot 7 for 21 from 2-point range as it dealt with New Mexico’s size and speed.
Turnovers were another early issue for the Aggies. Williams was among the Lobos who were able to dash down in transition before Utah State could recover. It led to a 41-33 halftime lead in the Spectrum, the fourth straight game Utah State has been behind at the intermission.
• The Aggies drop their second straight home game and fourth straight conference game.
• Preston Medlin leads USU with 13 points and nine assists.
• Jarred Shaw chips in 15 points and seven rebounds.