SALT LAKE CITY - It might have been a lack of determination or a shortage of energy following last week's tournament in Mexico. Or perhaps the Aggies were just short on savvy and/or pure muscle.
Whatever it was, in the eyes of head coach Utah State Tim Duryea it was directly responsible for his team being dominated on the boards during Wednesday night's 77-63 loss to BYU at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
"It was a totally embarrassing performance physically; we totally got out-toughed," Duryea proclaimed following his team's third straight setback after a 3-0 start. "There were rebounding numbers that I have never seen before. We just totally got physically out-toughed. Physically manhandled. Whatever term you want to use for it, physically we got out-toughed."
BYU (5-2) outrebounded Utah State (3-3) by a 55-31 margin while collecting 23 offensive rebounds to just eight by the Aggies. That led directly to a 20-10 advantage by the Cougars in second-chance points.
"Unbelievable. Fifty-five to 31 on the boards; 23 offensive rebounds. That is the story of the game," Duryea noted. "Sometimes you've got to look in the mirror and say we got out-toughed, and we got manhandled."
Defensively, the Aggies certainly gave themselves a shot to end their four-game losing streak to BYU. After putting up 92, 92 and 101 points in their last three games, the Cougars shot just 35.2 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range, including a 1 for 11 effort in the first half.
But while five different Cougars came up with six or more rebounds, sophomore forward Quinn Taylor led Utah State with just six boards. Senior forward Jalen Moore led USU in scoring with 15 points, but the Aggies' leading rebounder secured just two boards, as did second-leading scorer, 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Nobert Janicek (12 points).
"I felt like we played good defense, we just didn't rebound really and that's pretty much where we lost the game," Moore said.
"They played tougher than us. I don't know if there was a lack of effort, but they definitely played tougher than us and usually the tougher team will win. And they ended up getting a ton of offensive rebounds — more possessions than us — so that's where it hurt us the most."
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On offense, the Aggies ended up shooting 41.3 percent from the floor but misfired on numerous open looks throughout both halves. Duryea also thought that a lack of physical determination also hurt his team offensively, inasmuch as USU shot just 11 free throws — making just six — while BYU finished the game 23 for 27 at the line.
"We've got to get to the line more, and again, that is a sign of toughness," Duryea said. "We've got to drive the ball more and get fouled. We have to be tougher offensively. Toughness is not just defense; toughness is on offense, as well. And we're not tough enough on either end, to fight through contact and fight through adversity.
"We missed a ton of shots tonight and only got eight of them back. And again, that's a sign of toughness."