LAS VEGAS — When Utah State needed someone to halt an onslaught Wednesday in its Mountain West tournament opener against Wyoming, Jalen Moore answered the call.
The Cowboys, who once trailed by 25 points in the first half, had cut the Aggie lead to eight points at 55-47 with an 11-0 run.
Utah State, which has struggled with holding onto leads, instead kept Wyoming from completing the comeback, and a pair of Moore jumpers played a key role in the Aggies staving off the rally and rolling to the 88-70 win.
"We've been in too many games like this where we had the lead and at the end we ended up losing," Moore said. "I couldn't let that happen again."
With the victory, Utah State, the tournament's eight seed, will face No. 1 seed San Diego State on Thursday at 1 p.m. MST in the quarterfinals.
Moore's first key jumper came after Wyoming had missed two shots that would have cut the Aggie lead even further. After the Aggies' Chris Smith took an inbounds pass, then passed it to guard Shane Rector, Rector found the junior wing player at the top of the key. Moore took one dribble to his right, then drilled an 18-foot jumper over Wyoming's Jason McManamen.
The Cowboys' Alan Henderson quickly responded, hitting a jumper on the ensuing possession to again make it an eight-point game.
But less than 20 seconds later, Moore, a Sky View High product, struck again. After Julion Pearre dribbled to the middle of the court, he turned back and threw a pass to Moore along the 3-point line. Moore didn't hesitate, again nailing the jumper to make it a 71-60 game.
While Wyoming would cut it to a seven-point game later, the Aggies had weathered the storm and were able to eventually wear down the Cowboys and advance.
"We couldn't get anything going for a little bit of a span on offense," Moore said. "I was just trying to take the team over and hit the shots that we needed to. And I was able to do that and I just couldn't let our team lose this game."
On the day, Moore finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists. With Utah State protecting its lead late, Moore came up with three rebounds in the final 3½ minutes, preventing any second chances for Wyoming.
"I was really thrilled to see Jalen Moore step up and make those two shots when the game did get to eight. That is the one thing we've really been missing all year long in this league," Utah State head coach Tim Duryea said. "… I did see Jalen have a really, just a really calm look in his eye and just played at a great pace and got to his spot, jumped up and knocked it in. Two biggest shots of the game, I think."
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