Utah State and Wyoming played, arguably, one of the best games of the Mountain West Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday as the teams fought through 16 lead changes and five ties during the course of 40 minutes. USU was down nine with less than two minutes remaining, but the final score was still in doubt as time was expiring when sophomore wing Jalen Moore launched a three-quarter court shot that didn't fall, leading to a 67-65 defeat for Utah State.
The loss drops the Aggies to 18-13 on the year and marks an end to Utah State's season with Wyoming (23-9) advancing to the conference semifinal Friday to face Boise State at 6 p.m. PT.
The first half was back and forth as the teams battled through eight lead changes and three ties en route to a 26-26 deadlock at the halftime break. Utah State had the largest lead of the first half as Moore hit back-to-back free throws to put the Aggies up 21-15 with 8:56 to play, capping a 13-4 USU run. A final basket by sophomore guard JoJo McGlaston led to the 26-26 tie going into the break.
The game remained close following the intermission until an 8-0 run by Utah State gave the Aggies a 41-34 advantage with 14:37 on the clock. The USU run was immediately answered by a 12-0 Wyoming run during the next four minutes, putting the Cowboys up 46-41 with 10:52 to play.
The Aggies fought back and tied the game at 51-51 on a Moore jumper, but a second run by Wyoming put the Cowboys back up seven, 58-51, with just more than four minutes to play. The margin grew to nine, 62-53, with 1:52 to play when Utah State made a feverish push to capture a win or force an overtime period. The Aggies pulled within two, 67-65, as junior guard Darius Perkins hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left, and the final was still in doubt as Wyoming's Charles Hankerson Jr. missed two free throws with two seconds left. Moore grabbed the rebound and heaved a shot as time expired, but the ball rattled off the backboard and led to the 67-65 defeat.
Moore led four players in double figures for the Aggies, ending the game with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from long range. Moore also led Utah State on the glass with seven rebounds and was followed in scoring by redshirt freshman forward David Collette with 11, Smith with 10 and freshman guard Julion Pearre also with 10.
Wyoming was paced by junior guard Josh Adams with 19 points, and he was followed by Hankerson Jr. with 16, senior forward Larry Nance Jr. with 13 and Riley Grabau with 11.
Utah State finished the night shooting 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the floor, 41.7 percent (10-of-24) from behind the 3-point line and 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from the free-throw line. Wyoming wrapped up its night shooting 48.1 percent (26-of-54) from the floor, 29.4 percent (5-of-17) from long range and 66.7 percent (10-of-15) from the charity stripe.
The loss punctuates the season for Utah State and also brings an end to veteran head coach Stew Morrill's coaching career in Logan. Morrill announced his retirement in January and finishes his career with a school-record 402 career wins at Utah State and 620 wins during the span of his 29 years as a head coach.
Kyle Cottam is the Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at Utah State University.