Utah State Overcomes Nightmare First Half To Beat Broncos In Semifinals

Mar 11, 2023, 12:22 AM | Updated: 1:05 am

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – One of the country’s top offensive teams relied on their defense to turn the game around as Utah State advanced to the 2023 Mountain West Championship game with a 72-62 win over Boise State.

#3 Utah State (26-7, 15-5) took on #2 Boise State (24-9, 14-6) in a 2023 Mountain West Championships semifinal on Friday, March 10.

Taylor Funk’s 32 points led four Aggies in double figures as USU never trailed in a 91-76 quarterfinal win over New Mexico.

Boise State nearly blew a 22-point lead before rallying in overtime for an 87-76 win over UNLV to reach the MW semifinal.

RELATED: Taylor Funk’s Season-High Leads Utah State To Resume-Building Win

These teams split the season series. In early January, Utah State suffered its largest margin of defeat of the season in an 82-59 blowout. The Aggies took their revenge when Boise State went to the Spectrum, picking up their fifth-straight victory with an 86-73 win. It was their first, and only, Quad One win this season.

Max Shulga led four Aggies in double-digits with 19 points. Steven Ashworth reached 1,000 career points, scoring 14 on the night. RJ Eytle-Rock came off the bench to score 13 and Sean Bairstow finished with 12. Despite an off shooting night, Taylor Funk added seven points and a team-high ten rebounds.

Naje Smith and Marcus Shaver Jr. led Boise State with 14 points apiece. Tyson Degenhart finished with 13 points in the loss.

First Half

Boise State made 4-of-7 shots, opening an 10-6 lead as the Aggies missed their first four attempts from deep.

Sean Bairstow stepped up as the offense struggled, scoring six points to keep Boise State from opening up a lead. USU started 1-of-7 from beyond the arc.

Fortunately for the Aggies, the Broncos seemed to be playing half a step slow, perhaps a side effect of last night’s overtime win. Boise State held a 14-13 at the second media timeout.

An old-fashioned three-point play from Bairstow erased Boise State’s lead, tying the score at 16.

The Broncos made the game’s first run, frustrating the Aggies into a series of turnovers that resulted in a 6-0 streak to open up a 26-18 lead. USU committed seven turnovers that Boise State turned into ten points in the opening 14 minutes.

RELATED: Mountain West Regular Season Honors Announced, Steven Ashworth Named To First-Team

Unlike their quarterfinal win over New Mexico, Utah State’s half court offense couldn’t generate any consistency. USU went 7:38 without a field goal as Steven Ashworth and Taylor Funk battled a physical Broncos defense.

After starting 0-for-5, Ashworth hit back-to-back massive threes with Boise State threatening to seize momentum and pull away. The second triple gave Ashworth eight points in the half and 1,000 points for his Utah State career.

Nine points apiece from Tyson Degenhart and Naje Smith helped Boise State to a 36-28 halftime lead. Bairstow led the Aggies with nine points.

USU shot 37.5 percent (9-of-24) and 20 percent (3-of-15) from deep while turning the ball over ten times.

Second Half

Funk’s first three was quickly followed by Ashworth’s third as Utah State attempted to make a second-half run.

Both teams began to ratchet up the intensity with foul trouble becoming a factor. Funk, Ashworth, Shulga, and Bairstow had three fouls each for the Aggies. Boise State starting center Lucas Milner sat for an extended stretch after picking up his fourth foul. Two other Broncos had three fouls each midway through the second half.

Boise State held a 46-43 lead with 10:51 to play.

RELATED: Utah State’s Steven Ashworth ‘100% Focused’ On Mountain West Tournament

Utah State took it’s first lead, 51-49, on two free throws from RJ Eytle-Rock after the senior guard drew the fourth foul on Degenhart with a tough drive to the basket.

An Eytle-Rock three forced Boise State to call a timeout as the Aggies surged to a five-point lead with 6:20 to play.

USU’s defense held the Broncos without a field goal for 7:52, allowing the Aggies to go on an 19-4 run down the stretch.

Back-to-back Shulga threes gave Utah State a 62-53 as Boise State began to unravel.

Boise State was limited to 27.6 percent (8-of-29) shooting and 1-of-9 from deep in the second half as USU outscored the Broncos 44-26.

Utah State advances to the 2023 Mountain West Championship game with a 72-62 win.

Up Next

#3 Utah State advances to their fourth MW championship game where they will face #1 San Diego State (26-6, 15-3). The title game is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, March 11. This game is broadcast on CBS.

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

  • Utah State Aggies Team Leaders

  • Utah State Aggies Standings

Utah State Aggies

Bobby Wagner - Seattle Seahawks...
Brian Preece

Report: Bobby Wagner Returning To Seattle Seahawks After Year In Los Angeles

According to reports, former Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner has signed a one-year deal to return to the Seattle Seahawks.
3 days ago
KSL Sports

USU Coach Blake Anderson Provides Update On Player Who Was Taken To Hospital

On Thursday, a Utah State football player was taken to the hospital after a 'medical emergency' in practice. 
4 days ago
KSL Sports

Utah State Football Player Has ‘Medical Emergency’ During Practice, Taken To Hospital

A Utah State football player was taken to the hospital Thursday after collapsing during practice, according to the school.
5 days ago
Maverik Stadium - Utah State...
Brian Preece

Spring Practice Gets Underway As Utah State Prepares For 2023 Season

The Utah State Aggies kicked off the first of 15 spring practice sessions as they prepare for Blake Anderson's third season in Logan.
8 days ago
BYU, Utah State, Food Bank...
Mitch Harper

BYU, Utah State Football Teams Made Large Donation To Utah Food Bank

Members of the BYU and Utah State football teams joined forces at the Utah Food Bank.
11 days ago
Kyle Ireland

Instant Replay: Crying USU Cheerleader Goes Viral During NCAA Tournament

Utah State cheerleader Ashlyn Whimpey went viral on social media after showing some emotions on the sideline during the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
11 days ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Utah State Overcomes Nightmare First Half To Beat Broncos In Semifinals