Logan • Colorado State didn’t come into Wednesday’s night game at Utah State with an impressive record. Indeed, the Rams were a notch under the .500 mark and with only a single victory in four Mountain West conference contests.
But the Rams sure ran an an efficient operation at the Glen Dee Smith Spectrum on this night. Building a 22-point lead at one point, Colorado State kept the Aggies from winning a third straight MWC game by beating the Aggies 84-75.
It wasn’t just that the visitors shot better, committed fewer fouls and turned the ball over fewer times. Tim Duryea, Utah State’s head coach, also said that his team’s defense struggled with the way Colorado State (9-9, 2-3) penetrated, got second shots and ran ball screens.
And Duryea said he was the one to blame.
“I don’t think I had them ready to face what they were going to face,” the Aggies coach said.
Utah State (10-8, 3-2) heading into the game had beaten Fresno State in overtime a week earlier and then knocked off UNLV in Las Vegas on Saturday.
But the contest against the Rams got away from the home team late in the first half when Colorado State went on a 21-9 run.
“They proceeded to take us out of about everything we wanted to do in the first half, so give them a lot of credit,” Duryea said. “This one’s on me. I didn’t have them ready to respond.”
“They play an offense we really haven’t faced all year, just free-flowing and a lot of motion,” said Utah State sophomore guard Sam Merrill, who had 18 points to lead the team. “They don’t run any sets. They move the ball well. We dug ourselves too big of a hole.”
The lead went up to 22 points with 15:04 left in the game after a quick 7-0 run.
The Aggies did respond and eventually cut the lead 10 with a 10-point run of their own midway through the second half.
At the five-minute mark, still behind 66-56, Utah State was stymied by a pair of long-range makes from Colorado State guard Prentiss Nixon. He finished with a game-high 26 points.
It’s the third straight loss against the Rams for USU.
“If you ask me, it’s three straight games where they hit pretty tough shots in critical moments,” said Utah State’s Alex Dargenton, who came back from a one-game absence due to an ankle injury to score eight points. “Those 3s are hurting us, but it’s not like we’re not there contesting them.”
Koby McEwen, the Aggies’ usual leader in point production, never really got untracked against the Rams. Although McEwen finished in double figures with 11, five of those points came in the last 40 seconds.
“They pressure him 94 feet. They really try to take his rhythm away from him, try to make everything hard for him,” Duryea said. “They’re physical and they make him earn everything, and he never really got in the flow.”
Storylines<br>• Colorado State gets 26 points from Prentiss Nixon and 19 from Che Bob as the Rams burst to a 22-point lead in the second half en route to the victory.<br>• Utah State cuts the margin down to 10 points with 5:54 left, but two long Nixon 3-pointers puts the game out of reach.<br>• The Aggies are paced by Sam Merrill’s 18 points while freshman Daron Henson has 12 and Koby McEwen adds 11.