It was on pace to be a blowout, but the Colonels took advantage of a muted second-half effort from Utah State, hitting 3s and hustling on the back end. And although his team had as good a first half as they've played all season in just about every way, it left coach Stew Morrill frustrated with the squad's unpredictable swing.
"That's kind of our basketball team in a nutshell right there, that game," Morrill said. "That's us right now. We can look pretty good, like we did in the first half, or we can look real poor, like we did in the second half. We're very immature."
The Aggies allowed a 54-33 lead early in the second half to wittle down to 73-70 with less than two minutes remaining. Nicholls State's T.J. Carpenter nailed a few deep 3-pointers, and as Utah State's frustration grew, the Aggies found it harder to turn the tide.
They left men open. Rebounds bounced out of their hands. Their shots dribbled and rolled off the rim. Nicholls State got 17 points off of 13 Utah State turnovers.
If two of the Colonels' key players, including Carpenter, hadn't fouled out at the finish, it might have been disastrous for the Aggies.
The sloppy second half overshadowed a strong start, in which Kyisean Reed had led the way. The team's lone senior had a gaudy 12-point, nine-rebound, four-block stat line in the first half, leaping over the fray to make dunks and grab boards.
He still finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and fellow frontcourt mate Jarred Shaw had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. But the postgame mood was anything but upbeat.
"To me, it feels like we lost," Shaw said. "We didn't play to our potential at all."
The Colonels shot better in the second half, exposing Utah State's weakness around the perimeter. Utah State's starting backcourt tandem of Preston Medlin and Marcel Davis also were limited on offense, although they teamed up for 10 assists.
Utah State must turn around quickly for another 8 p.m. game against UC Davis on Friday night, then a date with Southern Illinois on Saturday. No time to mope, perhaps a fortunate turn for the Aggies.
"We move on," Reed said. "It's a new game. We don't want to carry too much from this game."
UC Davis 78, Southern Illinois 70 • The Aggies (3-6) got hot in the second half to come back against the Salukis (6-3), who shot a meager 34.8 percent from the field. UC Davis outrebounded Southern Illinois 44-30, while Corey Hawkins led the Aggies' effort with 20 points.
Storylines USU struggles in win
O The Aggies drop a 21-point lead that gets as close as 3 points.
• Kyisean Reed and Jarred Shaw each have double-doubles.
• Nicholls State got 17 points off of 13 Utah State turnovers.