A couple of offensive rebounds and putbacks by Dixie College product Cliff Reed helped break open a close game late Monday night as New Mexico State sent Utah State to its fourth straight loss and sixth in its last eight games.
In the 10 p.m. ESPN Big Monday closer at the Pan American Center, Neil McCarthy's club beat Kohn Smith's team 75-69 and left USU Oh-for-the-three-game-road-trip.New Mexico State's offensive rebounding edge - 21-11 - allowed for a number of rebound baskets and extra free throws. Smith said he was disappointed with the rebounding of his two interior starters, Carlito DaSilva and Nathan Wickizer. "I thought those two were flat-footed on the boards," Smith said.
"We played very well, especially in the first half, and were in a position to win, and then we go through that fiasco on the free-throw line where they get those putbacks," said Smith. "I don't understand it. That's just effort."
Utah State did not shoot a free throw in the first half and wound up making 14 of 18 for the game, but New Mexico State had twice the number of free-throw attempts, 36, making 22 of them.
Little-used USU forward/center Rod Hay managed seven rebounds and scored 14 points, making his first four shots from the field. He also blocked two shots. Hay had scored 16 career points and was used 1.33 minutes a game going into the road trip. Saturday at Irvine, he contributed 10 points, and on Monday, he was in the game in the first few minutes for Wickizer and played a total of 30 minutes.
Hay scored eight straight in the first 71/2 minutes of the game.
For the most part, it had been no more than a two-point game, with USU gaining a four-point lead, 43-39, that was the biggest of the second half until the nation's No. 9 free-throw shooter, Chris Hickman, missed the second half of a pair with about 81/2 minutes left.
That miss let Reed, a quick 6-foot-5, grab the rebound, put in a basket and get fouled by Hay for a four-point play. USU was up 54-53, but that gave New Mexico State a 57-54 advantage with 8:05 left. The 54-53 lead was USU's last.
After a Hay miss and a USU block of an NMS shot, Reed got the offensive rebound and put it back in for a 59-54 lead. Though Hay made his next shot, USU fell behind 63-56, then 65-57, plagued by the turnovers and fouls that had hurt the Logan Aggies all game but finally did some damage.
USU got back to within 69-66 on a Kendall Youngblood steal and two free throws, but New Mexico State scored the next six points to put the game away.
Youngblood was the game's top scorer with 17 points, and he added 10 rebounds. DaSilva scored 13 with five rebounds, and Jay Goodman scored 14 points and had six assists.
For New Mexico State, Eric Traylor and Hickman had 14 points each and point guard Sam Crawford had 13 points and seven assists. Reed finished with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Though Utah State had a homestand this weekend, it's still a tough row for the Aggies, who were to leave Las Cruces before dawn following the 12:30 a.m. finish to the game. They will have only one practice before hosting Long Beach State Thursday.
Monday's loss dropped USU to 11-9, 5-6 in the Big West.