The Aggies (14-4, 5-3) couldn't find a way to tie or win a tight game against UT Arlington (9-8, 4-4) on their home court. As the final seconds ticked off in Utah State's 74-68 defeat, the team's third straight loss, a program mired in bad luck in the past week felt the tug of more disappointment at their heels.
"We tried hard," coach Stew Morrill said. "We were just a few plays from having a chance to win. We just got to keep fighting, that's all we can do."
For 40 minutes, Utah State battled through with only an eight-man rotation, stricken last week with long-term injuries to starters Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin. The Aggies shot poorly in the second half, and a 13-rebound margin collapsed after halftime as UT Arlington hustled its way to a lead.
Spencer Butterfield was the Aggies' clear standout, active on both ends and finishing with a career-best 23 points and 11 rebounds. During a stretch of nearly 16 minutes in the second half, he was the only one who managed any field goals.
But still, last-minute magic seemed to be lingering as Ben Clifford hit a 3-pointer with 1:58 left. Unrelenting pressure gave Utah State the ball back, and Marcel Davis drove in for a layup with 1:15 left more than enough time.
In two games this season, the Aggies had been able to parlay that momentum into overtime wins. But it would not be so on Thursday, when they missed their final five field goals.
After the loss, Utah State tried to stay positive.
"We played hard I'm really proud of our guys," Butterfield said. "We came to work all week in practice. We just made some mental mistakes and errors down the stretch."
The Aggies' issues weren't limited to bad shooting. The Mavericks all but locked down the post in the game, outscoring Utah State 24-14 in the paint as they battled back from a rebounding deficit.
The one area where the Aggies burned UT Arlington the best was from the 3-point line, hitting 10 long-range shots. But penetration and post scoring were tougher, and uneven officiating made delving inside an adventure. Turnovers 12 in the first half took away any advantage Utah State gained.
The foul calls picked up in the second half, but only Jarred Shaw fouled out, finishing with nine points. Utah State got 27 shots from the free-throw line, but converted only two-thirds.
With Western Athletic Conference leader Louisiana Tech arriving for a game Saturday, Utah State has a short pause for self-reflection before facing a more substantial challenge.
"We had some guys play as hard as they could possibly play," Morrill said. "We need everybody to play as hard as they can possibly play."
O The Aggies lose their first home game after a loss since 2003.
• Spencer Butterfield leads with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
• Ben Clifford adds 12 points and nine rebounds.
UT Arlington 74, Utah State 68,
TEXAS-ARLINGTON (9-8) • Gainey 4-8 2-3 10, Edwards 5-5 3-4 13, Charles 0-0 2-2 2, White-Miller 1-9 8-9 11, Catlett 5-13 3-6 13, Outler 0-3 0-0 0, Butler 2-5 2-2 6, Gruszecki 5-8 0-0 14, Reves 0-4 5-8 5. Totals • 22-55 25-34 74.
UTAH ST. (14-4) • Clifford 3-5 3-4 12, Jean 3-7 2-2 11, Shaw 3-13 3-4 9, Davis 2-7 3-6 7, Butterfield 7-14 5-6 23, Lopez 0-1 0-0 0, Roland 0-6 0-1 0, Stone 2-2 2-4 6. Totals • 20-55 18-27 68. HalftimeTied 33-33. 3-Point GoalsTexas-Arlington 5-14 (Gruszecki 4-6, White-Miller 1-4, Catlett 0-1, Outler 0-1, Butler 0-2), Utah St. 10-26 (Butterfield 4-9, Clifford 3-4, Jean 3-7, Davis 0-2, Roland 0-4). Fouled OutShaw. ReboundsTexas-Arlington 36 (Gainey 8), Utah St. 41 (Butterfield 11). AssistsTexas-Arlington 15 (Catlett 6), Utah St. 17 (Davis, Jean 4). Total FoulsTexas-Arlington 24, Utah St. 24. TechnicalUtah St. Bench. A7,229.