NORMAL, Ill. Utah State's postseason futility gathered more steam.
With the Aggies trailing by two points with 18 seconds left in the game, Utah State's Jaycee Carroll missed a 3-point attempt, and Osiris Eldredge knocked down a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left in leading Illinois State to the 61-57 victory over the Aggies on Wednesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.
The Redbirds led by seven points on a 3-pointer by Boo Richardson with 3:50 left.
Carroll, who finished with a game-high 15 points, scored five straight to pull the Aggies to within two with 1:11 left.
The Aggies got a defensive stop in the final minute, setting up the attempt to tie or take the lead with less than 20 second left.
Utah State coach Stew Morrill opted to go for the win rather than the tie.
"He got a pretty good look," Morrill told KVNU Radio. "They had done such a good job on him and they were bound and determined to guard him with their whole team and not just one guy. ... When he Carroll) finally got a couple of open looks it's just harder to make. It was a tough night for Jaycee, shooting wise."
Carroll, the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, hit just 4-of-15 shots, including 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.
Utah State, which was making its ninth straight postseason appearance, lost its eighth consecutive postseason game, and it hasn't won an NIT game since 1960.
The Aggies (24-11) fought back from another seven-point deficit early in the second half and had the ball and had the opportunity to take the lead with seven minutes left, but the Aggies turned the ball over two times in a row and the Redbirds eventually took the lead back to seven and the Aggies couldn't recover.
"There are a number of plays in close games that you have to make, especially on the road," Morrill said.
ISU scored 23 baskets and Utah State tallied 22. The Aggies hit four more foul shots, but the difference came from the 3-point line especially in the first half.
The Redbirds hit 9-of-23 shots from behind the arc, but the were 7-of-12 in the first half in building a 34-25 first-half lead.
"I didn't think we had done much to give us a chance in the basketball game (in the first half)," Morrill said. "In the second half we came out and competed and gave ourselves a chance."
For the game, the Aggies shot 44.9 percent from the field, while Illinois State, which is 16-1 at home this year, shot just 40.4 percent. Utah State also had nine more rebounds, but the Aggies were hurt by and 18-turnover debacle, 12 of which came in the first half alone.
Behind Carroll, Gary Wilkinson added 12 and 12 rebounds and Stephen DuCharme added 10 and Pooh Williams came off the bench and scored a career-high 10.
Eldredge led the Redbirds with 14 points and Dimma Odiakosa added 11. Anthony Slack added eight.
"We had a rough start and that really hurt us. We dug ourselves into a hole," Williams told KVNU radio. "We fought as hard as we could in the second half and left everything out on the court."