Logan • Utah State entered Wednesday night's matchup against Denver with a 33-game homecourt winning streak, the third longest in the country, and one of the best atmospheres in the nation, courtesy of the Spectrum's student section.
The Aggies came out of this with an ugly 67-54 loss to the Pioneers before a half-empty venue and a student protest that turned an electric home-court advantage into stone silence for the first three minutes.
Angered by a formal letter of apology from USU President Stan Albrecht to BYU for the students' treatment of Brandon Davies during a season-opening win over the Cougars, the Aggie students sat and watched in retaliation. They started cheering as usual at the 17-minute mark of the first half, but even then the atmosphere was quiet, lackluster and not anywhere close to its usual noise level.
The USU players noticed, speaking on the issue after the game.
"We were just coming off a two-game road trip," senior point guard Brockeith Pane said. "To come back home and not have our fans there hurt the team. I know it hurt me. Still, we have to play better than this."
Denver carved the Aggies up with its Princeton-style offense that makes its meat on backdoor cuts and wide-open three-point looks. With Utah State's offense stalling for much of the first half, the Pioneers raced out to a 31-14 lead. Although the Aggies closed the half on a 15-3 run that cut the deficit to 34-29, Denver was never seriously threatened.
"They put on a clinic tonight," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "I thought they were really good. You could see their experience, you could see their system working and they took advantage of our miscues and inexperience. They dominated us tonight. We got outplayed and we got out-coached."
Offensively, the Aggies struggled mightily. Pane, Preston Medlin and Morgan Grim all scored in double figures. But the other two starters, Ben Clifford and Adam Thoseby, failed to score. Jordan Stone, the freshman center, made a big impact by scoring six points in the last five minutes of the first half. But he played sparingly in the last 20 minutes.
Whatever Morrill did, whichever combination he put on the court, nothing seemed to work. Utah State, (3-3), has played five starting lineups this season.
He said that a sixth quintet is likely for USU's matchup against Pacific on Saturday.
"Denver executed very well tonight," Stone said. "They were hitting shots tonight, but we have to play harder on defense and we can't let that happen. There is room to improve."
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R Utah State trails by as many as 17 points.
• The Aggies close to within 34-29 at halftime.
• Utah State sees its 33-game home-court winning streak snapped.