LOGAN — Utah State's hearts were pulverized on Valentine's Day.
The Aggies overcame a late deficit to force overtime against Denver, only to have the Pioneers' Brett Olson rip out their hearts completely.
Olson buried an off-balanced 29-footer as time expired to give Denver a wild 63-60 win over Utah State on Thursday night.
"That is a tough one," deadpanned USU head coach Stew Morrill. "We had lots of chances. Those are hard games to lose."
For a while, it appeared the Aggies would emerge with a terrific comeback win after trailing by nine points with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation.
Utah State slowly cut into the deficit, eventually drawing within a single point with under a minute left to set up a wild finish. Following a Denver miss the Aggies took over the ball with 28 seconds left.
USU point guard Marcel Davis took a good look from 3-point range, but the ball rolled off the rim into the hands of center Jarred Shaw. Shaw immediately went up with the ball and scored what appeared to be the game-winning bucket with four seconds left, but a foul was called before the bucket, sending Shaw to the line for a one-and-one opportunity.
“I thought it was for sure an 'and-one’, but unfortunately the ref said it was on the floor,” Shaw said.
The big man missed the free throw, but this time Davis was there to save the day, coming up with the offensive rebound in a mad scramble. He was sent to the free-throw line for two shots with two seconds to go. Davis missed the first free throw, but made the second to send the game to overtime.
For the game, USU finished just 13 of 21 from the free-throw stripe, including a frigid 2 of 5 in the final seconds of regulation and in overtime. The missed opportunity to end the game in regulation ended up haunting the Aggies.
“Jarred had a chance. Marcel gets a couple, and we get it to overtime. It wasn’t the end of the world. We had a chance in overtime, but you look back and think if we made the two shots the game is probably over,” Morrill said.
That didn't happen, however, and the game headed to OT.
In the extra session, the Aggies moved ahead 57-55 on a Ben Clifford free throw halfway through the extra period. The two-point advantage would prove to be USU’s largest and last lead of the game.
Denver scored the next five points to move back ahead before USU guard Spencer Butterfield tied up the game on a deep trey that struck the front of the rim before bouncing up and rattling in.
The 3 set up Denver with 18 seconds to try and win the game. The Aggies denied several looks, but the ball ended up in Olson’s hands. He found nothing but net as the horn sounded.
“We played really good defense I thought,” Butterfield said of Olson’s buzzer-beater. “He just got a good look at it and made it count.”
Utah State won’t get a lot of time to stew on the setback. New Mexico State comes into the Spectrum on Saturday night at 9 p.m. for the Aggies' only nationally televised game of the season.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.
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