LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Max Shulga and Trevin Dorius each recorded career-high nights as Utah State snapped a 2-game losing skid with an 80-65 victory over Air Force Tuesday night at The Spectrum.
Shulga scored 29 points, making 5-of-8 three-pointers, while Dorius set a career-high with 17 points to go along with seven rebounds.
“Max (Shulga) was tremendous,” said USU head coach Ryan Odom. “Trevin was tremendous, Steven (Ashworth) played really well and gave us great minutes. RJ (Eytle-Rock) was really good on defense. Sean (Bairstow) had his moments out there. The way they play offense it really tires you out. It wears you out, and for us to be able to come away with 80 points and a chance at a couple more there was a good night for us.”
USU led wire-to-wire as Dorius and the Aggies set the tone on the game’s opening plays. After forcing the Falcons into a shot clock violation, Dorius finished a layup down low and converted the and-one opportunity at the free throw line. Utah State further cemented control via an 8-0 run in the early stages before the Falcons clawed back to make it a two-point game at the under-12 media timeout.
Another 8-0 Aggie run powered by a pair of treys from graduate senior forward Taylor Funk and Shulga, plus a jumper from junior guard Steven Ashworth, pushed USU’s advantage into double figures for the first time on the night. Air Force hung around in the latter minutes of the first half, trimming the deficit to single digits as USU carried a 40-32 lead into the break.
The Aggies extended their lead to 14 points in the opening minutes of the second half before a 9-2 run from the Falcons trimmed USU’s advantage to seven points. Utah State outplayed the visitors by a score of 21-11 over the ensuing seven minutes to essentially ice the victory. Shulga scored or assisted on 15 of USU’s points during the decisive stretch.
“As much fun as it is, I wouldn’t be able to do it without people like Steven (Ashworth) and Max (Shulga) and Taylor (Funk) spreading out the corner on the perimeter,” Dorius said. “I get a lot more looks because over the season, they’ve shown that if they’re not guarding them outside or locking out on them, we’re just going to make 21 3s. I think as fun as it is, all that credit goes to our guards and the work they’ve put in throughout the whole season.”
Sean Bairstow chipped in 11 points with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Dan Akin led the team with nine rebounds.
The Aggies shot 48.3 percent (29-for-60) from the field and 40.9 percent (9-for-22) from behind the arc, also outrebounding the Falcons, 38-27. Air Force shot 43.6 percent (24-for-55) from the floor and 31.8 percent (7-for-22) from 3-point territory on the night.
With the victory, the Aggies have now won 20 games for the 32nd time in school history and the 21st time in the past 29 seasons.
“I’m really proud of the guys and their ability to refocus after two really hard losses where it could have gone the other direction.” Odom said. “And our guys responded in a really positive way today and got off to a good start in the game and it just kind of continued from there. They’re very hard to separate from because they challenge you so much on defense and wear you down, but I thought our guys overall did a nice job tonight.”
Utah State (20-7, 9-5 MW) remains at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to take on Nevada (20-6, 10-3 MW) on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m. (MT). Aggie legend Jaycee Carroll will have his jersey retired at halftime of the contest.