Logan • Crowd comments directed at officials during Utah State basketball games are usually more directive than plaintive.
But “ask them (the visiting players) to not make all of their shots,” was a plea heard as Mountain West-leading Nevada scorched the nets in a 93-87 victory.
Utah State got off to a 10-3 start against the No. 24 Wolf Pack on Saturday at the Spectrum, but Nevada (23-5, 12-2) hit nine 3-pointers in the first half to counter the opening run and never looked back.
“We came out confident and with a lot of energy,” said Utah State guard Koby McEwen, who finished with 32 points. “They made a lot of shots over our hands and, when they do that, you’ve just got to shake their hands.”
“They made tough shot after tough shot after tough shot,” Aggies coach Tim Duryea said. “Cody Martin, unbelievable. Tough, pop-up mid-range jumpers. Thirty points from a guy who’s averaging 13, you’ve got to tip your hat.”
Leading the way for the Wolf Pack was the Martin twins, Cody and Caleb, who transferred from North Carolina State. In addition to Cody’s 30 points, Caleb added 23. Jordan Caroline added 20 points for the Wolf Pack.
“I think you’ve got to give a lot of credit to that team, the way they played,” said Sam Merrill, who scored 16 points for the Aggies. “They got hot there for a few minutes, but it ended up being the whole game.”
Utah State (14-14, 7-8) led 37-30 after a McEwen 3-pointer with 7:52 remaining in the first half, but Nevada scored 17 points in a row and took a 52-40 lead at halftime.
“For the first 10-to-12 minutes, we were about as good as we could be, but we could not get away from them,” Duryea said.
The nature of the Wolf Pack offense changed after half as the visitors knocked down only two more 3-pointers for the rest of the game. Nevada still led 87-75 heading into the last three minutes before a 10-2 run for the Aggies cut the deficit to four points with 23 seconds left.
Caroline and Caleb Martin each made a pair of free throws in the last seconds to preserve the victory.
“We were putting pressure on the rim, we were creating open 3s — we could have knocked a few more of them down,” Duryea added. “That’s the one thing, if I look at the stat sheet, 10-for-33 is not quite good enough.”
Utah State has three games left in the season: A road contest against Air Force next week then a game at San Jose State and home finale against UNLV the following week.
“They make you play honest defense,” said McEwen, asked about what changes the Aggies might make if the two teams were to meet again at the MWC tournament. “When you have three players responsible for 70-plus points, that’s tough.”