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Aggie comeback falls short vs top ‘Dogs

sports editor

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 14:01

 

In tale of two halves, the Utah State men’s basketball team saw its comeback fall short Saturday against Louisiana Tech in a 51-48 loss despite a career-high 21 points from junior Jarred Shaw.

“I got no problem with our effort, we played really really hard,” said head coach Stew Morrill. “La. Tech just seems to find a way. They’ve won a lot of close games lately. You have to give them credit. They’ve won a lot of games like this.”

Senior Brandon Gibson had a hot night from the 3-point line for the Bulldogs, connecting on his first four shots beyond the arc while scoring 17 points in the first half. Gibson’s fifth 3-pointer gave Louisiana Tech an 8-point edge midway through the first half, and the Bulldogs shot 46.7 percent from the field compared to 29.2 percent for the Aggies en route to a 13-point halftime lead.

The tide turned to start the second half after an 8-0 USU run over the first six minutes cut the deficit to five. After forcing 10 turnovers in the first half with its full-court press, the Bulldogs forced just one Aggie turnover in the second half.

“They couldn’t press us as much because they couldn’t score,” Morrill said. “It’s hard to get in your press when you’re not scoring, so our defense was really why we weren’t turning it over. They weren’t facing that press every time.”

Louisiana Tech shot just 18.5 percent from the field in the second half, and Utah State pulled down 10 of its 19 offensive rebounds to chip away at the lead. Matters got even worse for the Bulldogs when Gibson caught an elbow jostling with Ben Clifford for position under the basket and left the game for the final seven minutes.

An old-fashioned 3-point play from junior Spencer Butterfield pulled USU within one, and on the ensuing possession Butterfield knotted the game at 48 with 1:42 to play. With Gibson on the bench, the Aggies held the Bulldogs to just three points over the final seven minutes, but that’s all it took.

Sophomore Raheem Appleby knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 90 seconds left and Clifford’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim twice as time expired to give

Louisiana Tech its first victory at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in eight tries.

“I thought it was in,” Shaw said of Clifford’s shot. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go in. We just have to learn from it, just try and move on and stay positive.”

Utah State fell to 14-4 all-time and 7-1 at home against the Bulldogs and dropped to 14-5 overall this season with its fourth straight loss — the first such streak in school history under Stew Morrill.

The Aggies hit the road for a 3-game road swing starting at Idaho on Jan. 31 with tipoff scheduled for 8 p.m.

“It’s a tough loss, but I’m proud to be a part of this team,” Butterfield said. “I’m proud of our guys for the way we battled tonight. Don’t give up on this team yet. We’ve still got a lot of fight in us. We’re going to keep coming to work every single day and we’re going to be doing some good things coming up. I can feel it.”

 

– curtislundstrom@gmail.com

Twitter: @CurtisLundstrom

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