Three-Point Shot Evades Utah State In First Round Loss To Missouri

Mar 16, 2023, 1:52 PM

SACRAMENTO, California – Utah State’s hopes of a first-round upset evaporated as Missouri pulled away in the second half for a 76-65 win.

Utah State (26-8, 13-5) faced the No. 23 Missouri Tigers (24-9, 11-7) in the 2023 NCAA Tournament Round of 64 on Thursday, March 16.

USU saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end in the Mountain West Championship. The Aggies lost to San Diego State for the third time, falling 62-57.

Missouri had its five-game winning streak ended in the SEC Tournament semifinals against then No. 4 Alabama, 72-61.

RELATED: Ryan Odom Brings Unique NCAA Tournament Experience In First Big Dance With Utah State

Taylor Funk led four Aggies in double-figure scoring with 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in his last game with Utah State. Steven Ashworth and Dan Akin scored 12 points apiece and Sean Bairstow added 10 in the loss.

D’Moi Hodge led Missouri with 23 points on five made threes. Kobe Brown added 19 points and eight rebounds in the win.

First Half

Taylor Funk started the scoring with a transition floater on Utah State’s second possession. He made two of his first three shots as both teams worked to find their footing.

After USU took a 4-2 lead, Missouri used a 10-2 run to take a 12-6 lead. The Aggies committed four turnovers during the run.

With the starting five struggling, Dan Akin and RJ Eytle-Rock came off the bench for Utah State and provided a spark. Eytle-Rock hit a pair of free throws and a layup while Akin battled Kobe Brown for a short hook shot in the paint.

Missouri held an 18-12 lead with 11:18 left. Despite their lead, three Mizzou players  had two fouls, including leading scorer Kobe Brown.

RELATED: Utah State Basketball Relies On Trust Entering NCAA Tournament

Utah State battled back, getting within a possession with six minutes left in the half. Though 0-of-9 from beyond the arc, the Aggies made nine of their first 11 shots from inside. Funk, Steven Ashworth and Max Shulga combined to miss eight threes.

Trailing 28-23, Sean Bairstow got out in transition and Ashworth found him with a perfect bounce pass for a right-handed slam.

Both teams shot 46.4 percent from the field in the first half. After turning the ball over seven times in the opening minutes, USU finished the half with just eight giveaways.

Missouri led by as many as eight before taking a 35-31 lead into the halftime locker room.

Second Half

After a scoreless opening two minutes to the second half, Funk and Ashworth combined for five straight points as the Aggies took their first lead since 4-2.

RELATED: Utah State’s Rylan Jones Fulfilling Captain Role Despite Trying Senior Season

Minutes later, Funk hit the Aggies second three of the half to tie the score at 39. The shot gave him 11 points to lead USU.

D’Moi Hodge answered on the other end with his third three to put Missouri back in front, 44-41.

After a free throw from Kobe Brown gave the Tigers a four-point lead, Ashworth connected on a layup and then assisted an Akin transition dunk to tie it up. Moments later, Akin’s second fast-break dunk gave Utah State the lead.

With the Aggies momentum building, Kobe Brown took over. The 6’8 guard backed Akin down in the post, finishing with a dunk. After Akin answered with a lay-in, Brown hit consecutive threes to give his team a 55-51 lead with 7:57 left.

Mizzou built their largest lead, 62-53, on back-to-back threes from Brown & Hodge.

An 18-5 Missouri run included five threes as the Tigers pulled away.

Utah State’s season came to an end with their tenth straight loss in the NCAA tournament, falling 76-65.

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

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Three-Point Shot Evades Utah State In First Round Loss To Missouri