Utah State basketball: Aggies drop bracketbuster against UC Santa Barbara, 72-64

Published: Saturday, Feb. 18 2012 10:45 p.m. MST

LOGAN — A rough season for Utah State got even worse Saturday night as the Aggies fell to UCSB 72-64 in the Spectrum. The loss was the Aggies' fourth at home this season, which equals the amount they had in their previous six seasons combined.

“It’s pretty simple to me. UC Santa Barbra is a lot better than us,” head coach Stew Morrill said after the game. “We drew a really good Big West team and they showed it tonight.”

The Gauchos led for much of the game, including the entire second half. After falling down by 16 with 11:18 left, the Aggies attempted to crawl back into the game with a 10-0 run to cut the deficit down to six. A few minutes later they again trimmed the margin, knocking it down to four with about five minutes left. The momentum was clearly in the Aggies favor when a loose ball foul tangled up Morgan Grim, sending him to the line for a one-and-one. Uncharacteristically, Grim got up from the foul and earned a technical for some extracurricular talking following the play.

“A real bonehead play, obviously,” said head coach Stew Morrill. “You just can’t do that. I don’t know what else to say about it. It wasn’t a smart play and he knows it.”

In the resulting sequence UCSB made both their technical free throws, Grim missed the front end of his one-and-one and the Gauchos quickly scored nine unanswered. What was a four-point game with a chance to cut it down to two had ballooned to 13 in a little more than a minute, and any chance of an Aggie comeback was dead.

UCSB’s wings -- James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson -- punished the Aggies all night. Nunnally finished with a game-high 24 points while Johnson added 22 points, including 17 in the second half.

“Their two wings are exceptional players. We let them get going at the end of the first half and Orlando Johnson in the second half,” Morrill said. “We lost him in transition; we tried the triangle and two, didn’t guard James Nunnally one time and just various breakdowns.”

While Nunnally and Johnson were going wild leading the Gauchos to a 53 percent shooting night from the floor and from beyond the arc, the Aggies struggled. Utah State finished shooting just 41 percent, including a 5-20 from deep. Usual sharpshooter Preston Medlin had one of his worst shooting nights of the season finishing 3 for 11, but he still managed to score 14 points and drop eight assists.

Local product Jordan Stone from Sky View High School had eight rebounds in limited action to lead the Aggies on the glass.

“We’ve got to keep trying to be consistent and play hard the whole 40 minutes, not just part here and part there,” Stone said. “After they went on a run, we kind of sat back on our heels and we weren’t attacking as much or playing as hard. It just wasn’t consistent.”

The Aggies finish their home season with senior night against Idaho next Friday. Seniors Morgan Grim, Brockeith Pane and injured forward Brady Jardine will be honored for their time as Aggies.

Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at DesNewsKraig@gmail.com or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.

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