Utah State Aggies downed by untimely scoring droughts in loss to BYU

Utah State forward Justin Bean, left, and BYU forward Yoeli Childs, right, battle for a rebound in the second half during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Utah State Aggies were right there in the end. But the culmination of droughts at the offensive end put them on the business end of a 68-64 loss to Brigham Young University on Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in the final installment of the Beehive Classic.

The Aggies suffered multiple stretches during which they could not buy a basket. They ended the first half missing seven consecutive field goal attempts. During that time, BYU went on a 9-0 run.

Late in the second half, the Aggies had missed 12 consecutive shots before Sam Merrill converted a midrange jumper. That shot but USU’s deficit to just 57-54 with 5:29 remaining in the game.

Even when the Aggies trailed by just one with less than 50 seconds left, they still couldn’t buy a bucket. Justin Bean missed a layup and so did Neemias Queta after he brought down the offensive rebound.

BYU’s Alex Barcello drilled a corner 3-pointer to ice the game just moments after that sequence. Utah State ended the game missing its last four field goal attempts.

“We were down nine or 10 or whatever it was and gave ourselves ever opportunity to win, but just couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the hole down the stretch,” Aggies coach Craig Smith said.

Utah State shot just 40% from the field and 28.6% from the 3-point in the just its second loss of the season. The Aggies are now 10-2 with two difficult games coming up against South Florida and Florida.

Alphonso Anderson led USU with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while Abel Porter had 13 points and 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. Sam Merrill had a difficult outing with 11 points on only 2-of-10 shooting, but added eight rebounds.

Porter said the scoring droughts didn’t affect the team negatively because he felt neither team was able to score in those stretches. That was certainly the case in the second half when the Aggies missed 12 straight shots but were still within striking distance.

But Porter also said it was frustrating to struggle on offense in such a close game.

“I think that it’ll come,” Porter said of the offense. “We have some guys that will make some shots. It’ll come.”

Queta played 23 minutes in his second game back from a knee injury and scored 11 points while adding nine rebounds.

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