clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

USU basketball: Bell tolls for Utah State on final play, falling to Indiana State

LOGAN — Now known as the Sycamores, the original name for Indiana State's athletics teams was the Fighting Teachers, since the institution's original name was Indiana State Teachers College.

But Saturday night at the Spectrum, the Fighting Teachers returned in the second half as a more experienced and determined ISU team taught the Aggies a harsh lesson, rebounding from a 14-point halftime deficit to shock Utah State, 62-61.

"Obviously a really, really hard loss," USU head coach Tim Duryea said. "I thought down the stretch Indiana State played like a veteran team, very posed, very purposeful and very clutch. They made some clutch shots and did some clutch things.

"And I thought we played very, very young. We missed easy shots, and the free-throw line is really hard to explain. To shoot 7 for 13 from the line in the second half; free throws forever have won college basketball games, and we're not getting the job done there. And down the stretch, I thought we played extremely young."

Clinging to a one-point lead with 9.8 seconds left following two free throws by freshman guard Koby McEwen, the Aggies surrendered the game-winning score when the ball, which was taken into the lane by ISU junior guard Brenton Scott, somehow ended up in the hands of Sycamores forward TJ Bell on the right side of the basket with just two seconds remaining.

Aggie forward Jalen Moore then came up well short on a long, desperate shot attempt as time expired, setting off a joyous on-court celebration by the Sycamores.

"(Scott) drove it, and we came to help," Duryea said of Indiana State's game-winning score. "I saw the ball get knocked out of his hands, but I don't know how it got to the other side of the floor for them to lay it up. I have no idea. I didn't see what happened."

Utah State (3-4) has now dropped four games in a row after opening the season 3-0, while the victory was clearly a big one for the battle-tested Sycamores (4-4). After opening the season with back-to-back overtime games, Indiana State lost all three of its games in the AdvoCare Invitational in Florida last week by a total of eight points.

But those experiences clearly paid off for the Sycamores on Saturday as they managed to make up a 35-21 halftime deficit.

"I don't know what team I was watching in the first half, but that was awful basketball by us," ISU head coach Greg Lansing declared. "For as poorly as we played in the first half, we then got aggressive and took the fight to them by changing some defenses. Utah State didn't shoot as well as they normally do, but man was that a great road win."

Scott, who came into Saturday's contest as ISU's leading scorer at 19.3 points per game, was just 1 for 6 for three points in the first half. But the veteran guard fared much better after halftime, ending up 7 for 18 from the field on his way to a game-high 18 points.

Matt Van Scyoc (14 points) was the only other Sycamore to reach double figures, but the senior forward also loomed large in the second half by going 3 for 3 from the 3-point line.

Point guard Shane Rector (14 points) led the way for the Aggies thanks to a 6-for-6 performance at the free-throw line, while Moore and McEwen each added 13 points. McEwen finished 5 for 8 from the line, but USU made just 12 of 19 attempts as a team.

Indiana State shot 37.7 percent from the floor for the game, but the visitors connected on 48.4 percent of their shots in the second half after making less than 27 percent before halftime. Conversely, the Aggies made just 26.7 percent of their second-half shots after knocking down more than 48 percent in the first half.

The major difference was clearly Indiana State's 2-3 zone, something that Duryea and Moore both said the Sycamores hadn't played a moment of in their last five games.

"We didn’t think they were going to play any zone defense," Moore said. "We didn’t prep any of our zone stuff because they hadn’t played a possession of it in their last five games. We tried to run some zone specials and it didn’t work, so they just stayed in the zone. We couldn’t get stuff to work against it.

"Every time they went man defense we scored or got to the free-throw line, but that zone killed us. We weren’t expecting that. Good coaching on their part."

The Aggies, who led by as many as 16 points in the first half, stalled out offensively after leading 39-25 early in the second half. Led by Scott, the Sycamores capitalized by going on a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to suddenly make the game very tight.

Indiana State ended up tying the game at 42-42 and 58-58, but the Aggies bore down every time the Sycamores could have taken the lead until — after Julion Pearre made one of two free-throw attempts — Scott drove by Rector on the right side to put the visitors up 60-59 with 1:37 to go.

Neither team was able to score in the next minute, but with 19.7 seconds left, Scott was fouled, earning a trip to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, However, much to everyone's surprise, Scott airballed his first attempt, and 10 seconds later, McEwen was fouled under the USU basket.

Following an ISU timeout, the highly touted freshman buried free throws to push USU up 61-60 with 9.8 seconds left. But the crowd of 7,064 was denied an Aggie victory when Scott, guarded by McEwen, drove down the left side of the lane, and meeting heavy resistance, lost the handle on the ball only to see it somehow end up in the hands of a wide-open Bell on the right side.

"It was frustrating," McEwen said. "I thought we played great defense, but the ball got tipped and then they got a layup.”