PROVO — In an instate rivalry game between two teams as good as Utah State and BYU the outcome often comes down to the little things. In this game it was the ability to make free throws that turned out to be the difference.
BYU made 23 of their 30 chances from the line while the Aggies struggled hitting just 15 out of 26.
"It was a good basketball game," USU coach Stew Morrill said. "We came in and gave ourselves a chance; (if) we make a few free throws it might have been a different story. We struggled at the line."
Besides shooting a poor 57 percent from the free-throw line, the Aggies also missed the front end of several one-and-one free-throw situations that left points on the board in a game where they could not be wasted.
"I thought we played hard," Tai Wesley said. "We kept (BYU) to the percentages we wanted. We just didn't rebound the ball, and didn't shoot good enough free throws."
It was an especially rough night for Wesley, who struggled to find the voice to answer questions after the game due to a recent sickness.
A former Provo High School standout, Wesley was determined to have a good game in his homecoming. He scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds and was near unstoppable in the post. The only thing on the floor that could stop him was the free-throw stripe, and his foul issues. Wesley finished just 1 for 6 on free throws, and was forced to watch the crucial final two minutes from the bench after fouling out.
"They are free points, if you can make them," Wesley said. "I need to get in the gym and work on my free throws."
To get so close to a win on the road in a heated rivalry game was especially tough for the Aggies.
"BYU has a real good basketball team," Morrill said. "It seemed like a midseason type of game to me, not a second game of the season. Tough one to lose, instate games are always tough to lose, but when you come on the road and give yourself a chance it's really tough to lose."
"Any game you lose like this hurts," he said. "I mean whether it is BYU or not, it's a game we could have won, so it hurts a little bit more. If we had gotten blown out maybe it wouldn't have hurt so much."