Aggies rally from down 10 to beat the Bulldogs, improve to 2-1 in conference play
Utah State remains perfect at home against conference foes
Aggies consider crumbling, then decide against it for a wild OT finish
It may have taken a 10-0 run at the end of regulation to get there, but the Utah State Aggies found just enough offense Wednesday night to hold off the visiting Fresno State Bulldogs, 81-79.
The term overtime thriller might seem a bit cliche, but the game did go to overtime — and it was indeed thrilling. Junior guard Deshon Taylor rebounded from a quiet first half with 16 points in the second, tallying 24 for the game. Fresno’s star was equally matched by re-emerging Aggie sophomore Koby McEwen, whose 28 points in 41 minutes marked a new career-high.
“I have great respect for Deshon Taylor,” McEwen said post-game. “We became good friends after our game last year, and ever since then, we’ve had that game-recognize-game relationship. I have the utmost respect for him.”
Neither team gained more than a two-possession advantage over the other until a 10-0 Fresno run appeared to have the Aggies dead to rights with four minutes remaining. A timely 3-pointer from Dwayne Brown Jr. sparked USU’s rally, with McEwen and sophomore Sam Merrill adding six points to the Aggies’ final charge.
The game turned frantic over the final minute. A missed Merrill 3-point attempt was first recovered, then immediately deemed a turnover after Brown allegedly traveled with the ball. Fresno took possession with a 69-68 lead, Deshon Taylor heading for the foul line and just 5.6 seconds left on the clock. Then, chaos.
Taylor missed the front end of his 1-and-1, then managed to foul McEwen in transition with 0.9 to play. McEwen stepped up to the free throw line and coolly nailed the equalizer but couldn’t sink the dagger, treating a suddenly raucous Spectrum crowd to some free basketball.
“I let my guard down for a second,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said post-game. “I thought after Koby made the first one, he would make the second one. He’s been in that situation before, so I thought we were home and then kind of had to jack it back up in the timeout. But what we talked about was ‘hey, if somebody would have told us five or 10 minutes ago that we were going to get to overtime, we would have taken it.’ We got here, so let’s take advantage of it.”
Fresno struck first in overtime, burning the Aggies’ interior defense and building a quick 75-71 lead. Utah State responded in kind with a huge 3-pointer from sophomore Diogo Brito, prompting seven straight points from the home team before sealing the win with free throws from Brito and Merrill.
The Bulldogs shot 51 percent from the floor Wednesday night, scoring 48 points in the paint and hitting 7-of-14 from beyond the arc. The Aggies shot 49 percent overall, making 18-of-24 from the foul line and managing to out-rebound Fresno 37-28.
Utah State will aim to carry some of Wednesday’s momentum into Saturday’s road test at UNLV. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 pm MST.