Utah State Knocks Off Washington State, Mountain West Play On Horizon

Dec 25, 2022, 6:30 PM
Steven Ashworth - Utah State Aggies - Air Force Falcons...
Steven Ashworth (3) of the Utah State Aggies handled the ball as Lucas Moerman (35) of the Air Force Falcons defends during the first half of their Mountain West Championships first round matchup at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State limited Washington State to just two threes while USU poured in 11 shots from deep to defeat the Cougars 82-73 to take third in the Diamond Head Classic.

Utah State (11-2) took on Washington State University (5-8) in  the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday, December 25.

Utah State dropped their second game in three contests as they came back to earth against SMU. The loss to SMU followed a dominating victory over Seattle to open the Diamond Head Classic.

The Pac-12’s Washington State defeated George Washing 66-64 to open the Diamond Head Class before falling to host Hawai’i 62-51 in the second game.

Six Aggies scored in double-figures with Steven Ashworth, Trevin Dorius and Taylor Funk each scoring 12. Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow finished with 11 while Dan Akin had 10 off the bench.

Mouhamed Gueye led the Cougars with 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting.

RELATED: Cold Shooting In Paradise Leads To Utah State Loss

First Half

The Aggie shooting struggles continued as USU opened the game 2-of-6 from the field. USU briefly fell behind early but a stretch where the Aggies hit five of six shots helped them build a 16-11 advantage.

USU built a 21-16 as Wazzu struggled from the floor, hitting just 35.3 percent of their shots in the first 12 minutes. The Cougars were 0-for-7 beyond the arc. Utah State rebounded from a slow start to hit four threes in the opening minutes. Overall, USU made eight of their first fifteen shots.

Each team had six early turnovers but only USU was able to capitalize. The Aggies had 11 points off turnovers in the early minutes versus a single point for Washington State.

RELATED: Defense Keys Utah State Blowout Win Against Seattle

The Aggie lead reached ten when RJ Eytle-Rock faked a couple of passed before hitting a three to make the score 29-19.

It came during a 3:25 stretch without a field goal for Washington State.

RELATED: Depth Showing Up As Injuries Hit Undefeated Utah State

With the Aggies in front by 11, Rylan Jones and Taylor Funk combined for back to back Funk layups to give USU their largest lead of the night, 42-27.

USU went into the half leading 42-29.

Funk led USU with seven points. Three Aggies scored six points apiece. TJ Bamba led all scorers with 10 points. USU out-assisted the Cougars 11-2 in the first half.

Second Half

TJ Bamba made the Cougars first three of the game at the 17:17 mark of the second half. The three cut Utah State’s lead to 49-36 as the programs traded points early in the second half.

Later in the half Max Shulga became the first Aggie to reach double-figure scoring when he knocked down a mid-range floater. Shulga was upset about a no-call on the play, feeling like he had been hit on the shot, and was called for two quick technicals and an ejection

After four technical free throws from Justin Powell, Wazzu trailed 56-45.

RELATED: Balanced Utah State Attack Puts Nation On Notice After 9-0 Start

Shortly after, Funk’s third foul called the Aggie depth into question.

Utah State head coach Ryan Odom opted to stick with Funk, trusting him to stay away from the fourth foul. Funk rewarded his coaches confidence by nailing a corner three on the Aggies next possession.

Washington State’s Jabe Mullins was ejected just seconds later after initially being whistled for a common foul on Steven Ashworth. Official reviewed the play, determining it met the criteria for a flagrant two foul and immediate ejection.

Following the ejection, USU went on a 10-0 run to jump in front by 20, 71-51.

The run extended to 15-2 when Ashworth added a layup and a deep three, giving Utah State a 76-53 lead.

A quick timeout allowed Washington State to regather and make a run of their own. A handful of defensive stops led to buckets on the other end, allowing the Cougars to go on a 9-0 run and cut the Aggie lead to 76-62.

Three straight Utah State buckets in the pain allowed the Aggies to answer the run and put the Cougars away.

The Aggies would go on to win 82-73, finishing third in the Diamond Head Classic.

Up Next

The Aggies return home to the Spectrum where they open Mountain West play against Fresno State on New Years Eve, Saturday, December 31.

Every Utah State basketball game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard on the call.

Coverage of Utah State University Athletics from KSL Sports can be found here. 

  • Utah State Aggies Scoreboard

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