Ruston, La. • It seemed like it couldn't get worse for Utah State.
A lead that had grown to as much as 31 stayed well above 25 points. The Aggies were about to leave Louisiana Tech's home court with their worst drubbing of the season to show for it. Just five minutes more, a loss would've been all the trip cost them.
Then Spencer Butterfield went down, and he didn't get back up.
Butterfield was carried off the floor by his teammates and athletic trainer Mike Williams. He then was whisked to the locker room, and the rest of the healthy Utah State roster joined him after an 84-61 loss in Ruston to the WAC leaders on Thursday night.
But instead of just a loss, Butterfield's injury could be a crushing blow to anything the Aggies hope to accomplish for the rest of the season. He was taken to a local hospital after the game for evaluation. The extent of his injury wasn't immediately known following the game, but the agony in his face spoke of another devastating roster hit on the horizon.
"Sometimes you run out of gas, and we might," coach Stew Morrill said. "If you don't have enough bullets, it's tough. And we keep losing bullets."
If Utah State loses Butterfield, they'll be down to seven scholarship players after season-ending injuries to Kyisean Reed, Sean Harris, Danny Berger and possibly Preston Medlin. The team also burned walk-on Connor Garner's redshirt in the waning minutes after Marcel Davis fouled out.
The Aggies never stood much of a chance after the first 10 minutes. Louisiana Tech blitzed them from the start.
Utah State was overwhelmed on all levels: balls being knocked out of the Aggies' hands, shots swishing past them into nets, blocks being swatted back in their faces. The lead swelled to 29 in the first half alone, and the Louisiana Tech bench outscored the Aggies as the Bulldogs took a 49-23 lead into intermission.
The full-court press was as tough as advertised. Louisiana Tech forced 15 turnovers, 12 of them in the first half. The Bulldogs were also sensational offensively, shooting 50 percent from the floor and leaving the Aggies' defense looking disorganized.
"They were on it from the start," Morrill said. "The game was over early. … They looked like a top-25 team tonight."
Jarred Shaw and Ben Clifford led the team back from total oblivion, scoring 14 apiece after being flustered early. TeNale Roland came off the bench for 12 points and seven rebounds.
Brandon Gibson, a reserve who scorched the Aggies last time in Logan, again dropped 20 points. Raheem Appleby also gave Utah State plenty of trouble, scoring his 15 from long range and up close.
Butterfield had been frustrated by defensive attention most of the night, and only managed seven points. He was driving to the hoop late in the second half when he landed awkwardly on his right side, where he's already been diagnosed with a cyst on his sciatic nerve.
"Hopefully he feels better," junior guard TeNale Roland said. "We really need him."
O Jarred Shaw and Ben Clifford each score 14 apiece for the Aggies.
• The Bulldogs force 15 turnovers and get 20 points from backup Brandon Gibson.