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3 keys in the Utah State Aggies’ 79-70 loss to the Boise State Broncos

SHARE 3 keys in the Utah State Aggies’ 79-70 loss to the Boise State Broncos
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Utah State center Neemias Queta blocks a shot by Boise State forward Mladen Armus during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 at ExtraMile Arena in Boise, Idaho.

Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi called it “the biggest game of the night,” and the matchup Wednesday night between Utah State and Boise State certainly lived up to that billing.

The Broncos made the big plays down the stretch to move past the Aggies in the Mountain West Conference standings with the 79-70 win at ExtraMile Arena in Boise, Idaho. It’s the first of a critical two-game series late in the season, as the teams will play again Friday. 

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Queta’s career night not enough

Utah State’s Neemias Queta and Boise State’s Derrick Alston Jr. both had solid games. Queta put up a career-high 32 points — shooting 12 of 21 from the field — while adding 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Alston had 18 of his team-high 26 points in the first half, while adding three rebounds and three assists.

The problem was the Aggies (14-6, 11-3) didn’t get as much help from other players in the second half like the Broncos (17-4, 13-3 MWC) did, and Boise State outscored visiting Utah State 42-31 in the second half in front of about 900 fans.

3-pointers help lift Boise State

It was a long night from the outside for Utah State, which made just 3 of 16 3-pointers in the game. Only one of those came after halftime, and Brock Miller was 0 of 5 from 3-point range.

The Broncos, meanwhile, made 8 of 23 3-pointers, including 6 of 14 in the second half. Marcus Shaver Jr. delivered the biggest 3 of the night, hitting a long one with 4:33 to play to give Boise State a 68-64 lead. After a USU turnover, Shaver drove and got the and-1 on Queta’s fourth foul to make it 71-64. It was the first time either team led by more than four points in the second half.

Shooting woes down the stretch

Boise State shot slightly worse from the field for the game — hitting 44.4% of its field goals to 46% for USU — but the Broncos were much better in the contest’s final few minutes. Boise State made six of its final eight from the field after the game was tied at 60-all with 8:16 to play, and the Broncos hit 15 of 17 free throws.

Utah State, meanwhile, made 4 of 12 from the field after that 60-all tie, and the Aggies hit just one of their last five field-goal attempts while connecting on 9 of 13 free throws.