In the final 1:24 of their first-round Mountain West Tournament game against Colorado State, the Aggies (18-13) summoned a 16-3 run to finish with a 73-69 win. Spencer Butterfield led the way with nine of his 14 points in the last 42 seconds, including six free throws to clinch a Thursday matchup with No. 1 seed San Diego State.
They walked away both relieved and humbled by a comeback that should rank among the program's greatest comebacks, filed away with some of the most memorable March moments this season.
"You recognize a miracle can happen, but miracles don't happen very often," Kyle Davis said. "Today was just one of those days. It did happen. It was amazing."
The picture was grim a few minutes before the end of the game, as coach Stew Morrill had run out of timeouts, and Colorado State's lead hovered around nine. The Rams had pounded the Aggies in the paint, getting rebounds and putbacks as they outhustled their winded foes.
Morrill had his team foul to extend the game and give them more time, then the Aggies tried their luck at hitting a few shots something that hadn't come easily all game.
TeNale Roland kicked it off with a layup. A defensive board went the Aggies' way, and Roland then found Moore alone on the perimeter, and the freshman knocked down a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Moore picked up a steal, and the ball made its way into Butterfield's hands, and he knocked down a corner 3.
That was when fate intervened: Colorado State's Daniel Bejarano was hit with a technical foul for taunting Jarred Shaw, setting the stage for Butterfield to hit the go-ahead free throws. He sunk them, and Utah State clung stubbornly to its lead for the final 40 seconds.
"Every timeout, we were telling each other, 'We got this, we're going to make a run, stay patient,' " Butterfield said. "It's a combined effort."
The rest of Utah State's points came from the charity stripe. Moore got another steal and was fouled, and he made both. Butterfield made four more at the end, sealing things with his final shot with eight seconds left. Bejarano's final shot fell lifelessly into the hands of Shaw as the buzzer rang.
Colorado State was stunned, as it had every right to be. The Aggies had led by as much as 10 in the first half, but that lead had melted away after the Rams fought their way back. Even without starting center Gerson Santo, the Rams led in rebounds most of the way, and outscored Utah State by 12 in the paint.
Rams coach Larry Eustachy called it "just one of the most unusual, uncanny chain of events I've coached in."
Morrill, in his 28th season of coaching, had to agree.
"I've been coaching a long time I've never been a part of something like that," he said. "About everything that could go right went right for us, and everything that could wrong went wrong for them.
"Happy to still be playing," he added.
The Aggies will take on the No. 8-ranked team in the country Thursday as they get their third shot at top-seeded San Diego State. The Aztecs prevailed in the previous two meetings, including a nationally televised overtime thriller in Logan.
No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 1 San Diego State
P Mountain West Tournament
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, 1 p.m.
TV • CBS Sports Network
Radio • 1280 AM The Zone
Utah State 73, Colorado State 69
COLORADO ST. (16-16)
Avila 4-11 2-2 10, Bejarano 2-17 1-1 5, Octeus 7-13 5-6 19, De Ciman 3-6 2-3 9, Smith 10-14 0-2 21, Holt 0-0 0-2 0, Hurst 1-2 2-2 5, Cohn 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 27-63 12-18 69.
UTAH ST. (18-13)
Butterfield 3-9 6-6 14, K. Davis 3-9 2-5 8, Shaw 3-7 1-2 7, Medlin 7-17 0-0 17, Roland 5-7 0-0 14, M. Davis 1-2 0-0 2, Moore 1-1 4-4 7, McGlaston 1-6 1-2 4, Stone 0-2 0-0 0.
Totals 24-60 14-19 73.
HalftimeTied 31-31. 3-Point GoalsColorado St. 3-17 (Hurst 1-1, Smith 1-2, De Ciman 1-3, Avila 0-3, Octeus 0-3, Bejarano 0-5), Utah St. 11-21 (Roland 4-5, Medlin 3-5, Butterfield 2-7, Moore 1-1, McGlaston 1-3). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsColorado St. 36 (Octeus, Smith 8), Utah St. 37 (Shaw 8). AssistsColorado St. 11 (Bejarano 6), Utah St. 14 (Butterfield, Medlin 5). Total FoulsColorado St. 17, Utah St. 18. TechnicalBejarano. ANA.