Utah State guard Steven Ashworth. (Photo: Utah State Athletics)
The Utah State Aggies seemingly turned their season around last week.
“Oh, man, it just feels really good to get off that losing streak,” Utah State’s Brandon Horvath said. “We were in practice everyday saying, ‘We’re right there.’ We just kept pushing, kept working and it just feels good to finally get over that hump.”
The Aggies whipped San Diego State (75-57) at home and Nevada on the road (78-49) last week to snap a four-game losing streak. Utah State (12-9, 3-5), is now No. 6 in this week’s Nevada Appeal Mountain West men’s basketball rankings.
“What you saw is we got back to Aggie basketball,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said. “It was less isolation, more movement, better decisions.”
Utah State dominated No. 8 Nevada (9-9, 3-4) with six players each scoring between 10-12 points. All 13 Aggie players that dressed for the game saw time on the court in the biggest blowout (29 points) in the history of the 87-year-old rivalry.
No. 3 San Diego State (11-5, 3-2) had beaten UNLV, 80-55, earlier in the week. Matt Bradley had 27 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the win over the Rebels.
The Aztecs trailed just 32-31 at halftime against Utah State but managed just 26 points in the second half. Bradley, though, played well again with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.
“The most disappointing stat (against Utah State) was our zero offensive rebounds,” said coach Brian Dutcher, whose Aztecs have lost two of their last three Mountain West games.
San Diego State also lost twice at Utah State last year but rebounded to win their next 14 games in a row, including the Mountain West tournament title game over the Aggies.
“That’s our goal now,” Dutcher said. “We have to go to work and we have to get back on the winning track.”
No. 1 Boise State outlasted Fresno State, 68-63, in overtime on the road and turned back No. 2 Wyoming, 65-62, at home last week behind 18 points from Abu Kigab. Emmanuel Akot had 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists against Fresno State, including a big 3-pointer with 22 seconds to go in overtime. The win over Fresno State is the Broncos’ program-record 14th in a row.
“Man, we came to life down the stretch,” said Boise State coach Leon Rice after the win over Fresno State. “It’s impressive what these guys are doing. I’m just glad to be along for this ride. This has been amazing.”
“The secret sauce in my opinion doesn’t have a lot to do with basketball,” Akot said. “It’s the togetherness aspect. We’ve built such a tight relationship with each other and we play for each other. Not a lot of team do that in the country. Our togetherness is what’s really separating us (from other teams).”
No. 2 Wyoming (16-3, 5-1) split a pair of close games last week, losing at Boise State and beating Air Force on the road (63-61). Hunter Maldonado had 31 points (13-of-19 from the line) and four assists in the win at Air Force.
The Cowboys beat Air Force despite missing 14-of-16 3-pointers. Air Force, though, also missed 15-of-20.
No. 4 Colorado State (16-2, 6-2) won a tough game against Nevada (77-66) at home on Tuesday but went to Las Vegas three nights later and lost, 88-74. UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton poured in 42 points on 13-of-22 shooting (8-of-13 threes) against the Rams and was named the conference’s Player of the Week.
“We didn’t do a great job of bringing help against him,” Colorado State coach Niko Medved said. “You can see when he’s shooting the ball like that, he’s a very difficult cover.”
No. 7 UNLV (12-9, 4-4) had scored just 55 points in a 25-point loss at San Diego State earlier in the week as Hamilton scored nearly half (23) their points.
“He was obviously special,” Medved said of Hamilton. “Some of that was us but he was phenomenal.”
Hamilton’s performance spoiled a 35-point effort by Colorado State’s Isaiah Stevens, who made 12-of-21 shots and five threes against the Rebels.
“He made some tough shots,” said Stevens of Hamilton. “He had a career game.”
Hamilton’s 42 points are the ninth most in UNLV’s storied history and the most since Trevor Diggs had 49 in 2001. It is tied for the fifth most by a Colorado State opponent and the third most for a Ram opponent at Moby Arena.
“Playing on the road in a hostile environment, that’s a great win,” Hamilton said. “I’d say it is probably one of my favorites. It’s my best game.”
Colorado State was down 43-25 at halftime at UNLV, continuing a trend of struggling offensively to start Mountain West games. The Rams are averaging just 13 points in the first 10 minutes of Mountain West games this season.
“I don’t know why again, at the start of the game we just looked a little cool,” Medved said. “We didn’t have the edge that we needed.”
“That’s on us as leaders, myself and (Stevens),” said Colorado State’s David Roddy, who had 18 points against Nevada and 13 against UNLV. “We have to have more desperation right away, not just when you get punched in the mouth. We definitely have to work on that. That’s not happening again.”
No. 5 Fresno State (14-6, 4-3) beat New Mexico (65-60) behind 22 points and eight rebounds from Anthony Holland and got 21 points from Orlando Robinson in the loss to Boise State.
The Mountain West now heads into arguably its most important week of the season so far.
No. 1 Boise State plays at No. 2 Wyoming on Thursday. Wyoming also has to play No. 4 Colorado State on Monday and at No. 5 Fresno State on Sunday.
No. 2 San Diego State has to play Colorado State on Friday and No. 8 Nevada on Sunday. The Nevada game was originally scheduled for Jan. 8 but was postponed because of health and safety protocols within the Aztec program.
Nevada also has to play at No. 7 UNLV on Tuesday, at No. 5 Fresno State on Friday before heading to San Diego State.
No. 11 San Jose also has a difficult week ahead. The Spartans host Fresno State on Tuesday and then travel to Utah State on Thursday and Boise State on Saturday.
The Nevada Appeal’s Mountain West men’s basketball rankings for the week of Jan. 31:
1. BOISE STATE (17-4, 8-0). Last week: Boise State 65, Wyoming 62 ... Boise State 68, Fresno State 63 (OT). This week: at Wyoming (Thursday), vs. San Jose State (Saturday).
2. WYOMING (16-3, 5-1). Last week: Boise State 65, Wyoming 62 ... Wyoming 63, Air Force 61. This week: vs. Colorado State (Monday), vs. Boise State (Thursday), at Fresno State (Sunday).
3. SAN DIEGO STATE (11-5, 3-2). Last week: San Diego State 80, UNLV 55 ... Utah State 75, San Diego State 57. This week: vs. New Mexico (Monday), at Colorado State (Friday), vs. Nevada (Sunday).
4. COLORADO STATE (16-2, 6-2). Last week: Colorado State 77, Nevada 66 ... UNLV 88, Colorado State 74. This week: at Wyoming (Monday), vs. San Diego State (Friday).
5. FRESNO STATE (14-6, 4-3). Last week: Fresno State 65, New Mexico 60 ... Boise State 68, Fresno State 63 (OT). This week: at San Jose State (Tuesday), vs. Nevada (Friday), vs. Wyoming (Sunday).
6. UTAH STATE (12-9, 3-5). Last week: Utah State 75, San Diego State 57 ... Utah State 78 Nevada 49. This week: vs. Air Force (Tuesday), vs. San Jose State (Thursday), vs. UNLV (Saturday).
7. UNLV (12-9, 4-4). Last week: San Diego State 80, UNLV 55 ... UNLV 88, Colorado State 74. This week: vs. Nevada (Tuesday), at Utah State (Saturday).
8. NEVADA (9-9, 3-4). Last week: Colorado State 77, Nevada 66 ... Utah State 78, Nevada 49. This week: at UNLV (Tuesday), at Fresno State (Friday), at San Diego State (Sunday).
9. AIR FORCE (10-9, 3-5). Last week: Air Force 63, San Jose State 53 ... Wyoming 63, Air Force 61. This week: at Air Force (Tuesday), vs. New Mexico (Saturday).
10. NEW MEXICO (8-13, 1-7). Last week: Fresno State 65, New Mexico 60 ... New Mexico 86, San Jose State 70. This week: at San Diego State (Monday), at Air Force (Saturday).
11. SAN JOSE STATE (7-12, 0-7). Last week: Air Force 63, San Jose State 53 ... New Mexico 86, San Jose State 70. This week: vs. Fresno State (Tuesday), at Utah State (Thursday), at Boise State (Saturday).