Moscow, Idaho • The fourth consecutive conference title will have to wait. And that lofty national ranking could be gone in a few days.
One needed only to see the student section at the Cowan Spectrum rush the floor to know that Idaho pulled a huge upset over Utah State on Wednesday night. The 64-56 conquest could serve as a program-defining win for the Vandals. It could be disaster for the Aggies.
"I thought Idaho played really well," USU coach Stew Morrill said. "They deserve all the credit because they're a good team. We missed a lot of open shots."
It's a loss that could have dramatic consequences for Utah State. The Aggies fall to 22-3 in the league, but in a WAC that's weak at best this season, USU's bracketbuster matchup with St. Mary's next week shapes up as the biggest game of the season.
If the Aggies lose that, they may actually have to win the conference tournament in March in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. That seemed far-fetched before Wednesday night, but USU's tournament résumé wasn't strong to begin with, because it has zero wins in the RPI top-100.
On Wednesday night, Idaho played strong defensively, holding Utah State to 33 percent shooting from the field. The Aggies missed 23-of-28 3-point attempts and shot just 7-for-13 from the free-throw line. The Vandals threw a box-and-one at Brian Green, and the zone put USU's offense off-balance. Tai Wesley played well, securing a double-double, while playing with a mask due to an injured nose. He fouled out, however, which hurt USU's chances down the stretch.
"We weren't ready for the box-and-one," Wesley said. "We didn't react to it real well."
And when Idaho doubled down on the post, the Aggies couldn't make shots from beyond the arc. Indeed, Utah State suffered its worst shooting game of the season.
On the other end, former USU point guard Deremy Geiger hurt the Aggies with constant penetration into the lane. That opened things up for Jeff Ledbetter, who hit several crucial 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes. His bomb from the corner gave Idaho a 61-52 lead with seven minutes remaining, and basically ended Utah State's hope for a rally.
Kyle Barone hurt the Aggies inside with his length and athleticism. He came up with 11 rebounds and several putbacks.
The loss snaps Utah State's 17-game winning streak. It ends the Aggies' 25-game conference winning streak, and puts much more importance on the rest of the regular season.
For a 22-3 team, USU faces a lot of pressure going forward.
R Utah State shoots 5-for-28 from 3-point range.