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LOGAN All good things must come to an end. However, some endings are more shocking than others.
Utah State was chasing history on the Spectrum Monday night as it attempted to become the first Aggies team to start a season 10-0. Things were looking good as Utah State led Weber State 43-29 at halftime.
Then the Wildcats put together a 20-minute track that will surely go down in Northern Utah lore. Weber State played near-perfect basketball, shooting 58.6% and finishing the Aggies offense to complete a 28-8 run, then resisted Utah State’s late push.
Taylor Funk’s potential 3-pointer for the Aggies, which ended the game with 18 seconds left, missed and the Ogden visitors recorded a stunning 75-72 win.
“You have to give Weber State and their players every credit for making the key plays in the second half to give them the best chance of winning,” said Utah State coach Ryan Odom. “Obviously our guys are kicking themselves in the butt.
“It’s a shitty feeling. We’re going to think a lot about that tonight and the things we missed in the second half.”
Ranked 250th on the NCAA Evaluation Tool, or NET, Weber State didn’t look like he would be up against the 10-ranked Aggies coming out of the dressing room at halftime.
The guests executed their offensive sets and finished in double figures with five players. Weber State thwarted a dynamic Utah State offense and held them to just three field goals in the first 13 minutes of the second half. Junior Ballard went 5-of-5 for 14 points, Dillon Jones finished with 16 points, and the Wildcats led by 6 points and 6:30 points remaining.
“I think we got the pace of the game where we needed it,” said Weber national coach Eric Fragrance. “You just can’t come in here and run up and down. We played it on our terms in the second half and they played it on their terms in the first half. It worked out well for us.”
The Aggies made their countermove with just over six minutes left in regulation, when they trailed 57-51. Steven Ashworth hit a 3-pointer, Funk got a bucket, Rylan Jones forced an attack and 7,000 fans stood.
But Ballard responded with a layup.
Ashworth hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game at 61-all at 3:22, and Ballard countered with a 3-pointer of his own. Ashworth responded again by hitting another crucial shot from further out, then KJ Cunningham buried a 3-pointer from the corner.
A jumper from Ballard at 1:11 ended a 9-3 run and the Wildcats lead 73-67. The Aggies almost equalized late as Funk had an open look in the corner but it went wide.
Weber State reacted blow by blow and provided the well-deserved surprise. As the buzzer rang, the players rushed to Aggies’ sparse but hectic winter break student section to celebrate the win. Various Aggies players bit their shirts with their teeth in frustration.
“We hit a three to equalize, they put in a three to go up. said Jones. “You have to score and you have to stop. It was a score. If you score, you can’t win. So we have to make those stops in the second half that we didn’t.”
The win marks the second time in history that Weber State has defeated Utah State in basketball.
“They just brought hardness and were locked in,” Jones said. “Obviously this game really meant something to them. You could see after the game that they were talking to the fans. They just showed an energy and they wanted it more than we did tonight.”
In the first half, Utah State seemed poised to claim its 10th win. Sean Bairstow opened the game with 8 straight points, Funk buried a contested 3-pointer and blew a kiss, and the Aggies shot 54.2% from the field and led by as much as 18 points. Utah State then opened the second half with a 1-of -10 from 3-point range and 3-of-18 from the field, and the offense couldn’t generate shots on rhythm and didn’t come out in transition.
“In the second half, if you don’t score, it can sometimes sap your energy a little,” said Odom. “When you score like they were and they get stops, the energy and momentum changes. That’s what college basketball is all about. Momentum changes all the time in sports – you see it all the time. You saw it at the World Cup, you see it in football, you see it in basketball every night.”
“It takes a while to figure that out because they’re so good on offense it takes a while to get into a rhythm defensively,” said Duft. “We always talk about rhythm on offense, but I think it’s the same defensively. I thought we did a much better job, our closeouts against shooters were much better in the second half. We weren’t passed, we were guarding the ball one on one and could bounce it back.”
The Aggies board a plane to Hawaii on Tuesday to complete non-conference play in the three-game Hawaii Diamond Classic. Weber State carries the momentum into BYU Thursday.