BYU, Utah State basketball: Aggie defense holds Cougars to season low

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 11:46 p.m. MDT

USU fans cheer as their team pulls ahead of BYU in the second half. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) USU fans cheer as their team pulls ahead of BYU in the second half. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

LOGAN — Was it the crowd? Utah State's defense? Or just BYU losing its composure to some extent and abandoning the offensive schemes that have helped the Cougars average 86 points per game this season?

Call it a combination of all of the above, and then some, in Utah State's 71-61 win over the Cougars at the Spectrum on Wednesday night.

Winning against the Aggies in one of the loudest and most hostile arenas in the land is no easy task. But it certainly isn't going to happen by shooting 31 percent in the second half, 12 percent from 3-point range, and making only four field goals in the final 10 minutes — and two of those came in the final minute of garbage time.

Pooh Williams of USU and Jackson Emery of BYU fight for a loose ball. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Pooh Williams of USU and Jackson Emery of BYU fight for a loose ball. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"We really couldn't get into any kind of a flow, any type of rhythm offensively," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "They did a good job guarding our ball screens and I thought we settled for some quick perimeter shots."

For the game, BYU shot 38.9 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from 3-point range, had only 16 points in the paint, and only five second-chance points.

"You need to do better than shoot 38 or 39 percent to win a game on the road, especially against a really good team," Rose said.

The Cougars normally make a living on fast-break baskets and by taking shots before the opposing defense has a chance to settle in. None of that happened on Wednesday — literally. The Cougars finished the game without one basket in transition. That's right. Not one fast-break point.

Credit that number to Utah State's control of the boards and in getting back defensively.

"We didn't get it going and they really took us out of what we do good," Cougar guard Jackson Emery said.

Pretty much every Cougar had a sub-par offensive game, with perhaps the exception of center Chris Miles (11 points of 5-of-9 shooting) and freshman Tyler Haws (8 points on 4-of-7). Even though Jimmer Fredette scored 19 points, he made only 5-of-15 shots. Jonathan Tavenari was only 1-of-11, and BYU's bench contributed a season-low 11 points. The Cougars were also outscored by 10 at the charity stripe.

"They were up in us and didn't let us do what we wanted to do," Fredette said.

Rose tried several different line-ups trying to find an offensive spark, but every combination came up empty.

"We found different ways, but we just couldn't keep anything consistent going. We just couldn't consistently get points around the basket," Rose said.

The way BYU finished the game stands out most as why Utah State was able to pull away, but the Cougars had more than one dry spell in the game. After taking a 10-3 lead early in the game, they then went scoreless for the next seven minutes.

"A lot of the credit goes to Utah State. They did a terrific job of guarding us and getting to us on the catch and making us speed up our shot a little bit," Rose said.

Once the Aggies got rolling in the second half, the Cougars' offensive pace became more out of sync and the struggles got worse. Miles hit a lay-up with 10:38 remaining, then made another layup with 8:19 remaining, and then Fredette hit a jumper with 6:23 on the clock. The Cougars' next basket came with 31 seconds to go.

"When we get into a situation to where we're not making our jump shots, we need to make adjustments and attack the basket and try to get to the rim and try to get to the free-throw line," Rose said. "But we'll learn from this."

The Cougars admit that the Aggies fed off the energy at the Spectrum, which seemed to increase the defensive pressure they applied on BYU.

"That's a sixth player that you have to play against, that crowd. And when they get going it's tough to play against them," Emery said.

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