The team that came into halftime with the lead never came out of the locker room.
At least, that's how it seemed as Utah State struggled in the second half against BYU Saturday night. Where was the team that had made so many shots? That had outrebounded the Cougars early? That had passed the ball so efficiently?
Coach Stew Morrill wasn't sure. All he knew was that BYU laid out the Aggies in the second half of a 85-74 loss.
"Give them all the credit in the world," he said. "They were the aggressors, driving the ball to the basket. We couldn't get them stopped. We missed a lot of open shots in the second half. They were more physical than us, they were just better than us."
The numbers tell a startling story in Utah State's (5-1) first loss of the year.
After shooting 59.4 percent from the field with 15 assists in the first half, the Aggies shot only 35.3 percent with four assists in the second. BYU turned the ball over only twice in the second half, while the Aggies lost the ball nine times. And the Cougars had a whopping 28 points in the paint in the second half while the Aggies had 14.
But it wasn't necessary to see the stats to understand BYU took over. Utah State's missed shots didn't allow them to get in a zone that had been effective early, and the Cougars simply drove on to the hoop over and over. The Aggies couldn't stop them.
"They were just driving by us," said Spencer Butterfield, who had 20 points and seven rebounds. "Our defense wasn't very strong. We need to guard the ball a little bit better. They were taking advantage of that."
The Aggies said afterward that fatigue was not an issue in the team's third game in eight days. But something was lacking from the second-half performance. A 44-39 lead quickly evaporated as Matt Carlino and Frank Bartley penetrated into the lane and Eric Mika and Kyle Collinsworth scrambled for rebounds.
Setting up offense was more of a struggle in the second half for the Aggies, who lost a bit of coordination. Utah State also never beat BYU down the floor, ceding 20 fast break points while getting none.
The Aggies schedule will be home-friendly for the rest of the non-conference schedule. Morrill hoped it would give Utah State a chance to improve for Mountain West play.
"We're going to have to get better, and it's early in the year," he said. "BYU's got a really good basketball team. If we can get to where we can defend a little better, we'll have a nice team."
Utah State falters in second half
Comparing key stats for the Aggies
• Shooting percentage drops from 59.4 to 35.3 percent
• Assists drop from 15 to four
• Turnovers rise from seven to nine
• Points in the paint drop from 24 to 14
• BYU scores 11 points off turnovers in second half