Utah State Weathers Storm, Completes Comeback Over Nevada

Feb 18, 2023, 8:14 PM | Updated: Feb 21, 2023, 3:22 pm

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State took a first-half punch from Will Baker and responded with a virtuoso second-half defensive effort to beat Nevada 75-66.

Utah State (21-7, 11-3, 4th in MW) hosted the Nevada Wolfpack (20-7, 10-4, 3rd in MW) at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah on Saturday, February 18. This was a rematch of an 85-70 Wolfpack win on January 13 in Reno, NV.

The Aggies put an end to their first two-game losing streak of the season on Tuesday night, beating Air Force convincingly, 80-65. Before that, USU dropped a tough game in Logan against San Diego State before falling on the road against San Jose State.

Nevada entered this game on a four-game winning streak. Last week, the Wolfpack pulled out a 77-76 squeaker at New Mexico before beating Fresno State 77-66 at home on February 10.

RELATED: Utah State Looks For First Quad One Win With Wolfpack In Town

True to form, Utah State received contributions across the board. Steven Ashworth overcame a difficult shooting performance from deep to lead the Aggies with 20 points. Max Shulga added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Taylor Funk added 11 points. Off the bench, Dan Akin scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting RJ Eytle-Rock knocked down a pair of threes on his way to 10 points.

Will Baker led Nevada with 25 points but scored only three in the second half. Kenan Blackshear added 14 points and six assists in the loss.

First Half

It was like the run Nevada closed January’s win on never ended.

Will Baker was unconscious in the opening minutes Saturday night. The seven-footer from Texas scored the Wolfpack’s first 22 points without missing a single shot.

Before many fans had found their seats, Baker had staked Nevada to a 22-4 advantage.

Staggered but still standing, Utah State began the long climb back when Max Shulga found Dan Akin for a lay-up. A possession later, Akin followed a Taylor Funk miss with a putback dunk. Steven Ashworth then followed with a three to give the Aggies a little life. Nevada lead 24-9 with 13:58 left.

RELATED: Pair Of Aggies Set Career-Highs In Win Over Air Force

Baskets from Nevada’s Tyler Powell and Darrion Williams gave the Wolfpack a 28-9 lead heading into the under-12-minute timeout.

The Aggie bench gave them a boost behind Akin’s six points on 3-of-3 shooting and a big three from RJ Eytle-Rock to keep USU within sight of the Wolfpack.

Nevada led 37-20 with 6:45 left. They were 14-of-19 (73.7 percent) from the field and 6-of-7 from deep. By contrast, USU had shot a respectable 9-of-19 (47.4 percent) with only two made threes.

Out of a timeout, Eytle-Rock knocked down his second three before a Sean Bairstow layup brought USU within 12 thanks to a 9-0 run.

Nevada claimed a 47-32 lead at the break. Baker led all scorers with 22 points. Akin’s eight points off the bench led Utah State.

Second Half

With USU still trailing by double-digits, grad-senior Taylor Funk picked up his third foul. Undeterred, Funk and Bairstow combined for back-to-back buckets that got them within eight points at 47-39.

With the Aggie faithful in full-throat, Ashworth found senior Trevin Dorius with back-to-back perfectly placed pick-and-roll lobs that brought USU with six at 52-46.

Out of a timeout, a step-back three from Shulga brought USU within 52-49 with 15:08 left to go.

RELATED: Max Shulga, Trevin Dorius Help Utah State Open Homestand On High Note

Nearly five minutes later with USU trailing 57-55, Eytle-Rock drove right by his defender for a game-tying layup.

After two free throws from Baker, Ashworth knocked down a three to give Utah State its first lead of the night. Baker’s free throws were his first points since opening the game with a 22-point outburst. USU led 60-59 with 7:49 remaining.

Utah State took a 64-60 lead into the final media timeout with 3:57 left. After shooting 62.1 percent from the field in the first half, Nevada had fallen to an abysmal 4-of-20 (20 percent) across 16 second-half minutes.

With 2:14 left, Nevada’s Jarod Lucas threw percentages out the window to knock down a game-tying three.

After a free throw from Shulga put the Aggies up 65-64, a terrific defensive possession forced a miss with Akin pulling down the rebound. On the other end, Akin gave USU a three-point lead off Shulga’s fourth assist.

Utah State completed the comeback by hitting free throws down the stretch. USU outscored Nevada 43-19 in the second half to win 75-66.

Up Next

Utah State heads to Laramie, Wyoming where they will take on the Wyoming Cowboys (8-18, 3-11) on Tuesday, February 21. Tip-off for this game is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MT).

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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Utah State Weathers Storm, Completes Comeback Over Nevada