By Megan McNulty
Utah State University men’s basketball coach Tim Duryea thought his team seemed static as soon as the clock starting ticking in the second half.
Within minutes, his fears had been confirmed — and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels went on to an 80-68 win over the Aggies on Tuesday night in Logan.
In the first 120 seconds of the second half, the Rebels scored off of three Aggie turnovers, with UNLV sophomore guard Patrick McCaw having two assists and a steal along with a dunk.
“The start of the second half — unexplainable,” Duryea said. “We did not do a good job passing and catching against their pressure.”
Before the game Aggie junior wing Jalen Moore said that he hoped his team could continue its momentum coming out of a two-game winning streak on the road in which it defeated Air Force and Colorado State. But Moore struggled offensively, finishing with only nine points. It was the first time in 13 games he did not score in double-figures. He turned down open three-point opportunities, forcing himself into heavily guarded mid-range jumpers and lay-ups.
The Aggies had come into the second half up 36-35, but shot just 32.4 percent and committed nine turnovers in the second period of the game. The Rebels had 60.7 percent shooting from the field and freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr. scored 20 points, leading the game.
Mountain West Player of the Week and Aggie guard Chris Smith led the team in scoring with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“The first half we competed but the second half we didn’t play like we normally do,” Smith said. “We dug ourselves a really big hole.”
With Aggie senior forward Grayson Moore out with an injured foot, freshman guard John Middleton made his season debut scoring two points.
The Aggies fought to get back in the game by decreasing the Rebels’ lead to only eight points with 6:28 left in the second half.
Aggie junior guard Shane Rector continued to fight with a season-high of three steals. Aggie junior forward Lew Evans made a lay-up and free throw with a foul from McCaw.
“This is the third home game we gave up in conference, which is a killer,” said Aggie senior guard Darius Perkins. “But we’ll bounce back.”
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