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Heartbreaker: Utah State falls to Colorado State on last-second shot in intense, controversial MWC quarterfinal

Rams guard Isaiah Stevens assists Chandler Jacobs for the game-winner to hand Aggies a deflating 53-51 loss in Las Vegas

SHARE Heartbreaker: Utah State falls to Colorado State on last-second shot in intense, controversial MWC quarterfinal

Utah State Aggies guard Rylan Jones (15) reacts after the Aggies lost to the Colorado State Rams in a Mountain West tournament quarterfinal at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — Brilliant defensive move to draw an offensive foul with 14 seconds remaining against one of the Mountain West Conference’s best players? Or a brutally awful call from an official that will never be forgotten in Logan? 

It probably depends upon where your loyalties lie.

For the record, Colorado State downed Utah State 53-51 Thursday night in a MW quarterfinal at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas when Rams guard Isaiah Stevens drove the lane, spun past Steven Ashworth and threw a no-look type of pass to Chandler Jacobs for the game-winner with a little over a second remaining.

It was a brilliant play to cap an intense, ruggedly-played contest in which neither team led by more than five points. Nobody disputes that.

What happened 13 seconds earlier? That’s another story.

“Saw two guys come in front of me and I tried to split them. I thought I had the angle and they were, I thought they were late. But again, that’s just basketball.” — Utah State’s Justin Bean on the charging call with 14 seconds remaining.

After Rylan Jones scored with 41 seconds left to pull USU within two, Colorado State’s Stevens lost the ball to USU’s Ashworth and the Aggies raced up the court.

Senior Justin Bean saw an opening and drove to the basket, only to have CSU’s Kendle Moore attempt to slide in front of him about six feet from the hoop.

Whistles blew after the contact. Referee Kevin Brill had it as an offensive foul on Bean, and two seconds later, Jones was forced to foul Moore.

In what Aggies fans probably consider poetic justice, Moore missed the free throw and Bean was fouled going for the rebound.

Makeup call? Probably. 

Bean swished both free throws with 12 seconds left to tie it at 51-51, his 14th and 15th points of a game in which points were at a premium. 

A few seconds later, the Rams were celebrating their third — and most controversial — win over the Aggies this season.

“I thought was a really good college basketball game overall,” said USU coach Ryan Odom. “Points were hard to come by. … The intensity was what you would want in a tournament setting.”

And that whistle with 14 seconds left?

“Yeah, I was looking for a block (call), honestly,” Odom said, “but it didn’t go that way. I don’t really have any feeling one way or another until I go back and really look at it.”

He obviously won’t like what he sees, and CSU fans obviously didn’t like the call that sent Bean to the free throw line with 12 seconds left.

Such is basketball.

“It is a human game, and he very easily could have gotten it correct,” Odom said of Kevin Brill’s call.

“Won’t know until I go back and look at it. … The bottom line is we still got it tied. We had a chance to win. We didn’t get the stop we needed to get it into overtime.”

Bean said the play “happened really fast” and said the Aggies “can’t blame the refs, obviously” for the heartbreaking loss. Colorado State just made one more big play than the Aggies did — after banking in desperation shots, hitting a shot over the backboard to beat the shot clock and other heroics.

“Saw two guys come in front of me and I tried to split them,” Bean said. “I thought I had the angle and they were, I thought they were late, but again, that’s just basketball.”

As for Stevens’ fifth assist and Jacobs’ only bucket of the game, Bean said, “They made a great play. I still don’t know exactly how it happened, but credit to them. They got a bucket when they needed to and made some big plays down the stretch.”

The Aggies led 47-46 with just over three minutes left when Bean followed his own miss with a bucket, but Stevens banked in a tough shot from above the free-throw line, David Roddy followed with a free throw and Stevens added another bucket with 55 seconds left to give CSU a 51-47 lead.

Jones’ tough driving layup stopped the bleeding for the Aggies, who finished the season 18-15. 

“Colorado State has a great team and the know how to win close games,” Odom said.

Stevens finished with 14 points for the Rams, while Roddy had 13.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and get downhill,” Stevens said of the final play. “Once I started to see the defense rotate over, we have a designed cut when that happens, and I was just able to find an open man for the layup.”

Stevens hit a 3-pointer with four seconds left in the first half to send the Rams into the locker room with a 29-25 halftime lead. The Aggies had a 25-20 lead with five minutes remaining in the half, but did not score the final five minutes, 16 seconds before intermission.

Roddy’s thundering dunk put CSU ahead 39-35 with 13:13 left, but the Aggies refused to fold in a see-saw game that was high on defensive scrappiness and low on offensive execution. Jones’ floater in the paint gave USU a 45-44 lead with 5:05 left. 

The Aggies were 1 of 15 from 3-point range. Brandon Horvath led USU with 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting, while Bean added 15 points but needed 15 shots to get there. He also had 13 rebounds, surpassing the 1,000-rebound plateau for his career in what might have been his final game in a USU uniform.

The former walk-on said there “is a lot of speculation out there” regarding his future, but he still hasn’t decided whether he will come back for a final year of eligibility.

“That’s going to be a conversation that my wife and I, obviously, have and, obviously, involving coach Odom as much as we can,” he said. “That’s going to be something we discuss, for sure.”

Just like that play with 14 seconds left.