Utah State basketball’s second-half comeback falters in loss at Colorado State

5 observations from the Aggies’ Mountain West showdown in Fort Collins

Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens (4) bumps Utah State guard Rylan Jones (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Utah State came close to overcoming a double-digit deficit for a second straight road game but fell to the formerly ranked Colorado State 77-72. It’s the third loss in five games for the Aggies and drops them to 10-6 on the year, 1-2 in Mountain West games. It’s the fourth straight year USU’s had 10 wins at the halfway point of the season, but also the team’s worst record through 16 games in that four-year stretch.

Here are five observations from Utah State’s failed comeback bid.

1. Aggies complete comeback, but fail to finish the game

With 4:37 on the second-half clock, Justin Bean’s jumper fell through the hoop to give Utah State a 62-60 lead, its first since a 10-8, way back when it read 10:58 on the first-half clock.

Bean’s jumper capped off a double-digit comeback for the Aggies, who trailed by as much as 10 points and were behind for close to a consecutive half-hour of game time. But the lead didn’t last as 28 seconds later, a David Roddy 3-pointer gave the lead right back to the Rams. CSU never gave up its lead again, outscoring USU 17-10 in the final four-and-a-half minutes following Bean’s go-ahead shot.

“We made some timely plays,” junior guard Sean Bairstow said. “Just needed to make a couple more.”

Certainly not insignificant was the fact that Bean, Utah State’s leading scorer and rebounder on the season (19.9 points, 10.5 rebounds per game) fouled out of the game with over a minute to play and USU down four.

“When your leader fouls out like that, that was tough,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “That’s a rarity for him. He’s really good at playing with a presence and not fouling.”

2. Rough road trip to start conference play

For the first time in nearly 30 years, Utah State’s conference slate began with three straight road games (this wasn’t intentional, two of USU’s conference games — both home games — were postponed) and it hasn’t gone all that well. The Aggies wound up going 1-2 in those three games including an unimpressive loss to Air Force (237th in the NET rankings). The only saving grace of the road trip is USU’s dramatic 90-87 overtime victory in The Pit over New Mexico. Were it not for a 17-point second-half comeback, the Aggies would have gone 0-3 to start the conference season.

Provided it isn’t canceled, Utah State will play its first conference home game on Saturday against Wyoming (11-2). The Cowboys have yet to play a Mountain West game, their first four contests being postponed.

3. Bairstow joins 20-point club

Bairstow, starting the game in place of an injured Brock Miller, led the way in scoring for Utah State with 20 points which he combined with five rebounds and four steals. He’s now the sixth different Aggie to score at least 20 points in a game, joining Rylan Jones, Justin Bean, Brandon Horvath, Steven Ashworth and Miller.

“Sean was awesome. Sean was really good,” Odom said. “He was aggressive. He was trying to get to the rim.”

The 6-foot-8 Aussie is on a solid run of play in his last four appearances, scoring in double figures three times with an average of 12.3 points.

“Happy individually, just wish we’d won,” Bairstow said of his accomplishment.

4. No answer for Roddy and Stevens

Very few teams have had a response ready for Colorado State’s duo of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens. The two average a combined 34.5 points on the season. The Aggies fared no better than any other team, allowing Roddy and Stevens to combine for 46 points on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Roddy muscled his way around the paint for 24 points to lead all scorers on the night. Despite holding a height advantage with both potential post matchups (6-foot-10 Horvath and 6-foot-7 Bean), no one seemed able to stop the powerful Roddy. Meanwhile, Stevens rained in jumpers from around the court.

Fittingly, the first two buckets Colorado State scored after Utah State took its brief second-half lead were made by these two stars. First, the 3-pointer from Roddy to make it 63-62 and then a follow-up jumper from Stevens to up that to 65-62.

“Roddy was magnificent,” Odom said. “It was Stevens in the first half, Roddy in the second half.”

5. Aggies abysmal at 3-point shooting in conference play

Utah State ranks 57th in the NCAA in 3-point shooting percentage this season but hidden underneath the rosy 36.7 percent average is a worrying number of poor 3-point shooting performances. Three of these poor performances — 4-for-16 at New Mexico, 1-for-19 at Air Force, and 4-for-18 Wednesday at Colorado State — make up the entirety of Utah State’s shooting efforts so far in conference play.

All put together, USU has made just 9 of 53 (16.98 percent) 3-pointers against Mountain West foes.

Odom pointed out postgame a couple of key misses from Utah State late in the second half. He had nothing negative to say about shot selection, pointing out that his guys have made those shots before but on Wednesday they “just didn’t go in.”

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