Free Throw Punctuates Second Half Comeback, Utah State Downs Spartans

Jan 21, 2023, 6:01 PM | Updated: Jan 23, 2023, 12:18 pm

LOGAN, Utah – It wasn’t pretty, but Utah State managed to pick up an important Mountain West win on San Jose State 75-74.

Utah State (16-4, 5-2) hosted the San Jose State Spartans (12-8, 3-4) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Saturday, January 21.

Utah State topped a difficult UNLV team in their last game, winning their third straight at home, 75-71. USU has alternated wins and losses in their past five games.

The Spartans were blown out at New Mexico earlier in the week, falling 77-57 in The Pit.

Steven Ashworth made five threes, including four in the second half, on his way to a team-high 19 points. Max Shulga’s 15 points included the game winning free throw while Dan Akin added 13 points off the bench.

Tibet Gorener led the Spartans with 20 points. Alvaro Cardenas (17) and Omari Moore (16) also scored in double-figures in the losing effort.

RELATED: Cardiac Kids: Utah State Completes Thrilling Win Over UNLV

First Half

Both programs struggled to find the rang in the early going.

Utah State missed four of their first five shots and turned the ball over twice in the opening minutes. The Spartans weren’t much better, committing three turnovers and missing a number of shots.

RELATED: Without Rylan Jones Healthy, Aggies Ceiling Remains Limited

Out of a timeout, Max Shulga hit the games first three to give USU a 5-4 lead. SJSU answered on the other end with a Tibet Gorener triple.

The threes seemed to knock the lid off the basket with both teams finding their stride for a stretch.

Midway through the half, Aggie forward Dan Akin got loose for a ferocious throw down. Sean Bairstow assisted on the pick and roll dunk.

Later in the half with San Jose State in front by three, RJ Eytle-Rock found Akin for an and-one opportunity. Following a Spartan lane violation, Akin tied the game at 15 with the free throw.

Gorener and Sage Tolbert combined to key a 7-2 San Jose State run, giving the Spartans a 22-17 lead with 7:42 left in the half.

After falling behind by 11 late in the half, USU closed the opening 20 minutes with a mini 4-0 run to cut the Spartan advantage to 37-30 at the break.

Gorener led all scorers with 12 points while Omari Moore chipped in 10 for the Spartans. Shulga’s seven points led the Aggies in the first half.

Second Half

Similar to much of the first half, a lack of Aggie offensive execution led to a transition three-point play for San Jose State. Unlike the first half, USU stemmed the tide with a 9-0 run to get within one at 40-39.

Steven Ashworth connected on back-to-back threes.

One possession later, Shulga hit his second shot from deep, sending the Spectrum crowd into a frenzy.

The Spartans were able to answer the Aggie run, hitting a pair of layups and an Alvaro Cardenas three sandwiched around a Trevin Dorius lay-in.

RELATED: Road Woes, Late Game Execution Remain Question Marks For Utah State

Utah State made six straight field goals at one point in the second half, but the Spartans incredible shooting from deep only allowed USU to take a brief one point lead after an Akin layup.

After the Aggies went up 53-52, San Jose State answered with consecutive threes to retake the lead.

Later in the half, Ashworth brought the Aggies within one with his fourth three of the game. After forcing a stop on defense, Shulga gave USU another brief lead with a layup. The teams would end up trading layups until a media timeout with SJSU leading 65-62 with 6:49 left.

After a Spartan three, Bairstow found Akin wide open on a roll for a dunk to bring USU within four points.

Minutes later, San Jose State picked up three offensive rebounds on one possessions but couldn’t come away with points. After their fourth straight miss on one trip down the floor, Ashworth pulled down the defensive rebound. On the ensuing possession, Ashworth hit his fifth three of the day to give USU a 74-72 lead with 1:44 left.

Tied at 74, SJSU’s Omari Moore slipped, turning the ball over to the Aggies with 22.4 seconds left on the clock.

After a timeout, Shulga allowed the clock to run before driving to the basket and drawing a foul with 5.8 seconds left. Shulga made the second freebie to give the Aggies a one point lead.

Cardenas’ last second shot came up short, giving Utah State the 75-74 win.

Up Next

The Aggies will face the San Diego State Aztecs (14-4, 5-1) on Saturday, January 21. Tip-off for this game is scheduled for 8 p.m. (MST).

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. 

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Free Throw Punctuates Second Half Comeback, Utah State Downs Spartans