Both categories played a big role for the Cougars and their ability to pull away down the stretch.
"We gave ourselves a chance, but we have to shoot better from the foul line," Aggies coach Stew Morrill said. "I thought the free throws really made a difference down the stretch. We played physical and the atmosphere made it seem like a midseason game, not the second game of the season. We gave ourselves a chance to win and that's what really makes this a tough game to lose."
An intentional foul on Tai Wesley also played a big part. But Wesley was 1-6 from the charity stripe, including missing twice on the front end of one-and-ones. The misses prevented Utah State from opening a lead against BYU when the chances to pull away were there.
Statistically, the Aggies shot better than the Cougars. Defensively, Utah State limited Jimmer Fredette to 8-21 shooting from the field, although the star guard scored a game-high 26 points. BYU, as a team, went just 7-26 from three-point range, and the Cougars had just 12 assists, contrasted with nine turnovers.
"That's unlike us," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "We usually have around 16 or 17 assists on 24 made baskets."
Still, Utah State had every chance to win. The Aggies survived a big Cougar run early in the second half. Down 52-44, Utah State ran off nine consecutive points to take a 53-52 lead on a Brady Jardine jumper.
From there, both teams went back and forth trading baskets. The Aggies' last lead came with 4:22 remaining at 69-68. BYU then went on a 6-0 run, highlighted by the intentional foul call on Wesley, to take control.
"This one hurts," Wesley said. "I'd rather be blown out than beaten like this. Bottom line, I have to shoot free throws better. I have to get into the gym and practice."
Utah State misses 11 foul shots.
The Aggies have more turnovers than assists.
USU loses its first game of the season.