LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – It was as easy as expected, but Utah State was able to pull off a come-from-behind win over San Jose State to extend its home winning streak against the Spartans to 29 in a row.
San Jose built an 11-point lead in the first half, and the Aggies trailed by six with less than five minutes to go, but eked out a 75-74 victory.
“So many big plays,” said Utah State head coach Ryan Odom. “It was just all in all a really gutsy win for our team.”
Max Shulga made the second of two free throw attempts with five seconds left to give the Aggies (16-4, 5-2 Mountain West) their final margin of victory over the gritty Spartans (12-8, 3-4 MW).
SJSU had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Alvaro Cardenas’ 3-point attempt was off the mark, preserving the Aggies’ win and extending their home winning streak over the Spartans to 30.
“All of us shoot free throws every day,” Shulga said. “So it’s just a matter of staying composed and don’t get too high when we go on a run or don’t get too low when they go on a run. So it was just staying composed and staying level-headed.”
Cardenas finished with 17 points for San José State, which has not won in Logan since Feb. 25, 1982. The Spartans’ Tibet Gorener led all scorers in the game with 20 points off the bench, while Omari Moore had 16 points and eight assists for the visitors.
“I can’t say enough about San Jose State,” Odom said. “Coach Miles and his staff have done a great job of turning that program around in short order. Obviously, I wasn’t here prior to him being the coach there. It’s easy to tell when you watch them play, and you got a chance to watch them live, they play winning basketball.”
Steven Ashworth led the Aggies with 19 points and six assists, Shulga had 15, while Dan Akin had 13 points and a team-best seven rebounds off the bench.
A jumper by Moore gave SJSU a 70-64 advantage with 4:42 to go in the game, but USU clawed back and regained the lead when Ashworth drilled a 3-pointer to make it 74-72 with 1:44 remaining.
The Spartans’ Sage Tolbert tied it at 74-apiece with 1:25 left when he scored on a layup, setting up the down-to-the-wire finish.
Utah State found itself in unfamiliar territory on the afternoon. For just the fifth time this season, including only the second in conference play, the Aggies found themselves trailing at the half.
Taylor Funk gave the Aggies a 10-9 lead with 12:53 remaining in the opening half when he sank a trio of free throws after being fouled while attempting a shot from beyond the arc.
Akin made it 12-9 less than 30 seconds later on a dunk, but the Spartans countered with a 20-7 run to open a 29-19 lead with 5:26 left until the break. SJSU was up 37-26 with 2:02 to go before USU closed the half on a 4-0 run.
Utah State shot a sizzling 53.8 percent from the field on the day (28-of-52), including 43.5 percent from beyond the arc (10-of-23), but just 69.2 percent from the free throw line (9-of-13).
The Aggies had 19 assists on their 28 made baskets, but were outrebounded 33-27.
Defensively, Utah State held SJSU to 43.5 percent shooting from the field (27-of-62), including 45.5 percent from 3-point range (10-of-22). The Spartans shot 90.9 percent from the charity stripe (10-of-11).
“As the game goes on, we just have to adjust,” Shulga said. “We knew they were going to be really aggressive on the offensive board and try to be really physical with us. We just had to adjust, see how the refs were calling, what were they calling, what were they not calling just as the game went on. I think we did a pretty good job of that in the second half.”
The Aggies begin a two-game road swing through the Golden State on Wednesday, Jan. 25, when they take on San Diego State, at 7 p.m.