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Boise State pulls out first-ever win at Utah State

LOGAN — It took 19 trips to Cache Valley, but Boise State finally broke through for its first men’s basketball victory at Utah State Tuesday night.

The hard-nosed Broncos edged the Aggies 68-63 in front of 9,378 fans, and the loss did not sit well with USU coach Stew Morrill.

“Before the game I told our team that we have to have one of our best defensive games of the year, and we didn’t. That’s disappointing,” Morrill said. “We are kind of a soft basketball team right now, both physically and mentally.”

The Aggies (5-5, 12-10) have now dropped two straight games, while Boise State (6-3, 16-6) extended its winning streak to six.

“It was amazing,” BSU coach Leon Rice said of his program improving to 1-18 all time in road games at Utah State. “It’s a tough place to play, and our team has won in some pretty tough environments. We won at St. Mary’s, we won at the Pit, and now we have won at Utah State.”

The game was tied five times in the second half, the final time at 60-60 following a three-point play by USU guard Chris Smith with 3:29 to go.

The Aggies then appeared likely to have a good shot at taking the lead when the shot clock started to wind down as BSU guard Derrick Marks handled the ball more than 30 feet away from the basket. But the Broncos’ leading scorer calmly drilled the deep attempt as the clock expired, then, seconds later, stole a USU pass to set up a slam dunk for teammate James Webb III.

Just like that, Boise State was up 65-60 and the Aggies were unable to get any closer than two points down the stretch.

“He’s made shots like that; it’s unbelievable how many times he’s made shots like that going down the stretch in games,” Morrill said of Marks. “ … He’s having an unbelievable year. He’s probably the MVP of the league, and he has so much confidence.

“The confidence we don’t have, he has all of it.”

Marks, who had 31 points in USU’s 62-61 win at Boise on Jan. 3, ended up going 9 of 13 from the field and scoring a game-high 23 points despite playing just six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

Webb added 18 points — 12 of them in the first half — while BSU forward Nick Duncan knocked down a game-high five 3-pointers on his way to 17 points.

David Collette (17 points), Smith (16 points), Jalen Moore (15 points) and Darius Perkins (13 points) all ended up in double figures for the Aggies, but USU’s bench contributed zero points — the first time USU’s non-starters haven’t added at least a point since the 2007 WAC championship game against New Mexico State, a span of 262 contests.

As a team, Utah State shot 48.1 percent from the field, but the Aggies dropped in only 6 of 19 3-point attempts and went 7 of 12 from the free-throw line. And after leading the rebounding battle for much the game, USU ended up faltering on the boards down the stretch.

“The thing that was the most disappointing is that towards the end of the game, we can’t seem to make a free throw, and we can’t seem to get rebounds,” Morrill said.

Boise State, which got just four points from its bench, won the battle of the boards, 33-31, and shot 46.3 percent from the floor, including 11 of 25 from 3-point range.

The Broncos, who hadn’t played a game since Jan. 27, led the majority of the contest. The Aggies held a 15-14 advantage in the first half, but that lasted just 84 seconds, and Boise State took a 33-28 lead into halftime despite Marks seeing limited action.

Utah State trailed by as many as eight points early in the second half, but battled back to twice go up by two points in the final nine minutes. But while Marks and Duncan were connecting from the perimeter, the Aggies were unable to come up with numerous loose balls and rebounds in critical situations.

“We have to step up and make our free throws and get the loose balls,” Smith said. “It’s the little stuff that we have to do better.”

Despite their shortcomings, the Aggies still had a chance to tie the game in the final moments. But after inbounding the ball with 17.5 seconds to go, Perkins’ 3-pointer with five seconds left was well off the mark and Webb sealed BSU’s first win ever in Logan with two free throws.

“Not many teams get out of here with a win, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Rice said.