PROVO — Despite being double-digit underdogs and trailing by double figures in the second half, the Aggies saw themselves tied with in-state rival BYU with less than a minute to play.
The Cougars got two offensive rebounds, cashing in the second one for a bucket with 0.2 seconds left in the contest. The rebound jumper by Craig Cusick proved to be the difference as BYU edged Utah State in a men’s basketball game Tuesday night, 70-68, in front of 16,569 fans at the Marriott Center.
“We’re disappointed,” said Aggie guard Spencer Butterfield, who finished with a team-best 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. “We fought back, pulled together as a family and we just came so close. We’ll pick it back up and bounce back.”
Butterfield had tied the game at 68-68 with a pair of free throws with 57.1 seconds to play. The Aggies (18-7) would not get another chance to score.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better (ending), we just had to come up with the rebound,” Butterfield said. “We had a chance, but it didn’t happen tonight.”
Brandon Davies missed a shot for the Cougars (20-8) with 35 seconds to play, but Tyler Haws grabbed the rebound. After a timeout by the hosts, BYU held for the final shot.
“The final play is what we drew up,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “... We got a clean look. It didn’t go in, but with the time difference we could send all five guys to the glass. We sent them all in, and Craig (Cusick) got a clean look. That was a huge basket for him. This was a big win for our team.”
The field goal by Cusick was his only one of the game.
“It’s hard to explain,” Cusick said. “As a player, you couldn’t dream it any better. Coach called a great play. I ran to where I thought it was going to come off and I was fortunate the ball came to me. It’s great that I made the shot, but I have to give credit to my teammates who pulled us through the rest of the way.”
USU did have one last gasp, but a long pass that ended up hitting the backboard when Marvin Jean got his hand on it, fell away from the hoop. The Cougars then celebrated.
“If you look at the stats, we did a lot of things right,” Aggie head coach Stew Morrill said. “Our defense was pretty good and our rebounding was pretty good. We turned the ball over way too much and missed free throws. That’s why we got beat.”
The Aggies shot better from the field, making 45.1 percent of their shots to the Cougars’ 35.2 percent shooting. USU outrebounded BYU, 38-33. The Aggies did have 18 turnovers to the Cougars’ 12, and the visitors were 17 of 27 from the foul line, while the hosts made 28 of 33 from the free throw line. There were 51 fouls in the game.
“Our guys fought really hard in the second half,” Morrill said. “Give BYU credit, though, they made a heck of a play at the end of the game.”
The Aggies used a 10-4 run to tie the game up late. Butterfield had five of the points, while Marvin Jean hit a big 3-pointer down the stretch off a pass from Ben Clifford.
“I thought a lot of guys played well,” Morrill said. “Marvin (Jean) hit a big shot. Our guys were doing everything they could. Ben (Clifford) hit some shots in the second half, Jordan (Stone) played pretty hard, pretty well.”
The game was originally scheduled for Dec. 5, but was postponed when USU forward Danny Berger collapsed in a practice the day before. He was at the game Tuesday and welcomed by the BYU students with chants of “Danny Berger.”
Joining Butterfield in double-figure scoring was Jarred Shaw, who had 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 1:49 to play. Four other Aggies ended the game with four fouls. Jean had 11 points.
“We had to play smart,” said Butterfield, who had four fouls. “We kind of had to back off a little bit. I know for me, I was trying not to pick up that fifth foul. It was just the circumstances.”
Haws scored a game-best 27 points. Davies and Brock Zylstra added 10 points each.
Shaw gave the Aggies the early lead with the game’s first bucket. In fact, the USU center scored the Aggies’ nine points.
BYU built a 13-7 lead after going on a 6-0 run, capped by back-to-back field goals by Davies. The second came with 14 minutes left in the opening half.
USU answered with a 7-0 run to take a 14-13 lead with 11:19 left in the first half. TeNale Roland swished a 3-pointer to end the surge.
There were five lead changes and two ties at the midway point of the first half.
Matt Carlino triggered a 10-0 run with a trey. Anson Winder made a free throw to give the hosts a 25-15 lead with 7:50 before intermission.
BYU took a 41-32 lead into halftime. The Cougars built their lead by going 16 of 20 from the foul line over the first 20 minutes.
USU got within 50-48 with 11:40 to play on a 8-0 run. However, the Cougars responded with a 10-3 surge for a 60-51 lead with 7:55 left in regulation.
Then the Aggies made one last run that came up just short.
“It was just one of those games where a couple plays here or three, and it’s a different outcome,” Morrill said. “We make some free throws and that sure would have helped. ... It’s tough to win here, always has been, always will be.”