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Utah State basketball: Aggies’ season ends with quarterfinal loss to Nevada

First Published      Last Updated Mar 09 2017 09:47 pm


Nevada 83, USU 69 » Run before halftime seals it for top-seeded Pack.

Las Vegas • Nevada never stopped charging, at least not completely. The Aggies slowed the onslaught at times, but they could never fully stop the Mountain West's regular-season champion.

Utah State's men's basketball season ended with an 83-69 loss to top-seeded Nevada in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Thursday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center. With the loss, Utah State finished the season 14-17 which marks the first time since the 1992-93 season that Utah State finished below .500.

Aggies senior forward Jalen Moore scored a game-high and career-high 27 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the floor (4 for 7 on 3-pointers) and 5 for 6 from the free throw line. Freshman point guard Koby McEwen scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists. McEwen's classmate Sam Merrill scored nine points before he fouled out with 4:51 remaining.



Nevada shot 49 percent from the floor and had three players score 14 points or more. Jordan Caroline led Nevada with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Cameron Oliver added 19 points and 11 rebounds.

"They came out of the gate making tough shots," McEwen said. "There's nothing you can do about that. When they made tough shots, you've got to shake their hand and say good shot. There's nothing really you can do. But really what helped them was their bench."

The Aggies weathered an early storm as Nevada came out with more bounce than a brand-new trampoline, taking a 9-0 lead.

The free throw line provided temporary salvation for the Aggies early in the first half. Five of their first 12 points came on free throws. The Aggies' approach of relentlessly attacking the basket produced the added benefit of Nevada starters D.J. Fenner and Caroline having seats on the bench with two fouls apiece less than 10 minutes into the half.

The Aggies pulled within 16-15 after Merrill applied pressure that led to Lindsey Drew losing control and opening the door for a McEwen steal. McEwen fed Moore for a corner 3-pointer with 11:27 remaining.

"I thought our guys did a really good job to start the game," Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. "The execution on our offensive script, you know, to get the lead or the cushion that we got. And then obviously we have to give Utah State a lot of credit for their run, that they came right back at us."

Nevada's outside shooting (7-for-15 on 3-pointers in the first half) and red-hot overall shooting (52 percent in the half) kept the Aggies from sustaining any run. Nevada went up 31-21 on a Drew 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the half.

The Aggies appeared poised to respond again after an Alexis Dargenton free throw and Moore sliced to the basket for a thunderous two-handed dunk. Moore then made a steal while falling out of bounds and tossed ahead for a McEwen dunk on the break to make it 31-26.

However, Nevada outscored the Aggies 14-2 to end the half with a 17-point lead. Leland King came off the bench and scored eight points and made 2 of 3 3-pointers for Nevada in the first half.

"Obviously they got two key guys in foul trouble," Aggies head coach Tim Duryea said. "The game should swing our way a little bit and yet the game went their way. And that, I think, was the game in a nutshell because instead of us being able to go to halftime with a lead, with some confidence, maybe the pressure shifts to them a little bit."

Nevada, which led the conference in scoring and featured four of the top 10 individual scorers during conference play, led by as many as 21 in the second half. The Aggies got no closer than 10 points after halftime.

lworthy@sltrib.com

Twitter: @LWorthySports

 

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AT A GLANCE

Storylines

Utah State loses to Mountain West Conference regular-season champion Nevada in the conference quarterfinals to finish a season under .500 for the first time since 1992-93.

» The Aggies fell behind by 17 points at halftime thanks to Nevada finishing the first half on a 14-2 run.

» Aggies senior forward Jalen Moore scores a career-high 27 points and shoots 9 for 17 from the field in his final game.


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