COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (ABC4 Sports) – In the team’s first road game of Mountain West play, Utah State men’s basketball started early and finished late en route to a 77-65 win over Air Force at Clune Arena on Tuesday night.
The Aggies attacked early, scoring their first 18 points either in the paint or from the free throw line. USU’s defense held the Falcons to a single field goal over the first four-and-a-half minutes to help Utah State build an early 18-9 advantage.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Steven Ashworth kicked the Aggie offense into high gear, sparking a 21-7 run that pushed USU’s lead above 20 points. Two Falcon threes cut into the advantage as Utah State entered halftime with a 44-28 lead.
Air Force’s momentum continued to start the second half as a pair of 7-0 runs helped the Falcons trim the deficit to single digits just under the 12-minute mark. A 3-pointer each from Ashworth and Taylor Funk halted AFA’s run and briefly restored USU’s lead to double digits.
From there, the Aggie defense took over and held Air Force to only two field goals across a nearly eight-minute span to keep the Falcons at bay. Utah State turned to the free throw line to ice the game, shooting 15-for-18 from the line in the final 10 minutes to preserve the double-digit victory.
Ashworth and Funk powered the Aggie offense in the victory, scoring 15 and 16 points, respectively. Ashworth also led USU with a career-high eight rebounds. Max Shulga and Sean Bairstow also reached double-figures with 11 points apiece. Bairstow added six rebounds and a team-high four assists. Zee Hamoda and graduate forward Dan Akin narrowly missed double-figures in scoring with nine points each.
The Aggies utilized their size to their advantage, outrebounding Air Force, 37-25. Utah State also scored 36 in the paint and earned 27 total attempts from the FT line, converting 21. Air Force, meanwhile, scored 28 points in the paint and went 4-for-7 from the charity stripe.
Utah State (13-2, 2-0 MW) heads north to the Gem State to take on Boise State (11-4, 1-1 MW) on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 4:30 p.m. (MT).