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Utah State falls to Utah by 1 in final seconds

November 19th, 2009 Posted in Sports

By Dan Fawson

SALT LAKE CITY–Last Friday, Utah State won its basketball season opener despite committing an unusually high number of turnovers. Last night, not so lucky.

A career-high 27 points from senior guard Jared Quayle was not enough to help the Aggies overcome 17 turnovers and poor late-game execution, as they ultimately fell to in-state rival Utah, 68-67.

Trailing 67-64 with 26 seconds left, Aggie junior guard Tyler Newbold’s 3-point attempt from the top of the key clanged off the rim. Amidst a scrum for the rebound, Quayle emerged with the ball, but his 3-point attempt from the right baseline came up short. Utah’s Kim Tillie pulled down the rebound, effectively sealing the win for the Utes.

“We hit Tyler Newbold up top for a wide open three, and I thought it was going in,” Quayle said. “But it went off, and then it was bouncing around down there. I went and grabbed it and I thought there was less time than there was, so I threw up a shot. Probably wasn’t the best shot.”

With 8 seconds remaining, Tillie hit one of two free throws to push the Utah lead to 4. A 3-pointer from Aggie sophomore Jaxon Mayer with 0.9 seconds left proved too little too late, as the Aggies fell to Utah for the fourth straight time in Salt Lake City.

“That was a little tough to swallow,” Utah State head coach Stew Morrill said. “Give them (Utah) credit. They found a way to win, but we also found a way to give it away. You have the heart of a hummingbird if this doesn’t hurt.”

Utah’s win marks the eighth straight time the home team has prevailed in this series, and moves both team’s early season records to 1-1. Quayle scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half, and pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

“He kept us going, got us the lead, made shot after shot,” Morrill said of Quayle’s performance. “And he’s a phenomenal rebounder for a point guard–just goes way up and gets the ball in traffic.”

Utah State’s junior forward Tai Wesley rebounded from a disappointing performance in the opener, establishing himself early on in the post en route to 14 points and eight boards. Junior center Nate Bendall, Wesley’s front-court running mate, finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with his 12 points.

Fellow starters Newbold and Brian Green were decidedly less productive. After combining for 25 points in the opener, the perimeter duo managed a mere 6 points against the Utes, going a combined 3-15 from the field, and 0-9 from 3-point range.

“Brian and Tyler are great shooters, and they’ll come out next game and they’ll be hitting their shots,” Quayle said.

Morrill felt the same.

“I have a lot of confidence they’ll play better,” he said.

Morrill will also have to hope the Aggies’ turnover woes are resolved before the team hits the court again. The 17 miscues matched the total from the opener, and led to 22 Utah points.

“I think I could take blame for some of those turnovers,” Quayle said. “I had two or three turnovers back-to-back, and that’s disappointing. We just made some stupid plays, and we need to work on that.”

“We played hard,” Morrill said. “We played really hard, but we didn’t play very smart.”

A 17-foot jumper from Bendall with 12:54 left in the second half gave the Aggies their biggest lead of the game, at 47-40. The Utes quickly responded with an 11-0 run, with senior guard Luka Drca scoring 5 points and dishing out two assists during the four-minute stretch.

The Aggies briefly regained the lead, 54-53, on a Quayle 3-pointer with 5:34 left to play, but Utah’s junior guard Carlon Brown answered back on the following possession with a deep three of his own, giving Utah a lead it would never relinquish.

“They did make some big shots,” Morrill said. “Carlon Brown hit about a 25-footer when they had to have it.”

Brown led the Utes with 22 points on 8-19 shooting, knocking down a career-best three 3-pointers.

“I think he only had about six threes all of last year, so he’s definitely really improved his shooting,” Morrill said of Brown.

Drca finished second for Utah with 11 points, dished out a game-high six assists, and led a second-half offensive resurgence which saw the Utes shoot over 51 percent from the field.

The Aggies will look to get back on track Saturday, as they travel cross country to Boston to take on Northeastern University. The Huskies are 0-1 on the season, after dropping their season opener at Siena Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 10 a.m.

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