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Fans celebrate on the court after Utah State defeated No. 12 Nevada 81-76 in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

LOGAN – Following a two-day investigation into a controversial series of events after the Nevada at Utah State basketball game Saturday night at the Spectrum, the Mountain West announced Monday that the conference found no fault in how Utah State University handled the storming of the court after the Aggies’ 81-76 upset of the Wolf Pack.

“Rather, inappropriate conduct by individuals from both programs in the postgame handshake line and subsequently in the locker room areas created the unfortunate circumstances,” the Mountain West’s statement declared.

Due to fans converging on the court after the victory that vaulted Utah State (24-6, 14-3) into first place, following the postgame handshake line Nevada coaches and players were led up the Spectrum tunnel normally reserved for the home team. It was in the hallway between the Aggies’ locker room and the Wolf Pack’s locker room that emotions ran high, leading USU campus police to try to separate members of the two contingents.

A viral video posted on social media by KUTV shortly after the game showed a highly agitated Jordan Caroline in a Spectrum hallway split seconds after the Nevada senior guard punched through the glass of a fire extinguisher cabinet.

“After a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Saturday night’s incident, which included a review of numerous video clips from various sources and the collection of written statements from multiple individuals, the Mountain West has concluded the situation was not caused by the court rush. There was a postgame management plan in place and it was executed successfully,” the Mountain West statement reads.

"The Conference office has had multiple communications with both athletics directors and has shared the findings of its review. Each institution will be responsible for the determination and administration of what it deems appropriate disciplinary action for those involved. It must be made clear unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”

In response to the Mountain West’s declaration, Utah State athletic director John Hartwell also issued a statement Monday afternoon.

“First of all, we want to thank both the Mountain West and the University of Nevada in helping us review the postgame incident from Saturday night. While unfortunate, it should not overshadow what was a great college basketball game between two NCAA Tournament-caliber teams.

“After reviewing all the evidence, from surveillance video to eyewitness accounts, the incident was not a game management issue and was not caused by our students rushing the court. The unsportsmanlike behavior following the game did not include any of our student-athletes, but rather a couple of staff members, which is unacceptable, and we will handle those issues internally.

“Moving forward, Utah State Athletics will review our game management procedures in an effort to continually learn and improve.”

Nevada issued its own statement late Monday afternoon, vowing to "learn from this incident" and thanking the conference and Utah State administrators for their "diligence."

"We accept the review of the Mountain West and we will handle this matter internally," the statement reads. "The Mountain West believes in the highest ideals of sportsmanship and good behavior, and we will address this with members of our program who fell short of these ideals on Saturday night. We will pay restitution to Utah State University for any property damages incurred during the incident.

"We are eager to put this incident behind us and prepare for the final week of the regular season and the Mountain West Championships. Additionally, there was a great amount of misinformation in some media reports, including an unfortunate misidentification of other Nevada staff members as head coach Eric Musselman. We’re appreciative of those media outlets and the wire services that have since corrected this information."

The fracas at the Spectrum received national attention over the weekend, leading to many members of the media to question the wisdom of allowing college basketball fans to storm the court following major victories.

It also served to take away from the magnitude of Utah State’s victory, which allowed the Aggies to move a half-game in front of Nevada (26-3, 13-3) with just one regular-season game remaining Tuesday night at Colorado State (12-17, 7-9).

A victory at Fort Collins would secure at least a share of the Mountain West title for a Utah State team picked to finish ninth by the media in a preseason poll. But should the Wolf Pack falter at Air Force (13-15, 8-8) on Tuesday or at home against San Diego State (19-10, 11-5), the Aggies could win the title outright and earn the top seed in the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship March 13-15 in Las Vegas.

The Aggies won the first game against the Rams, 87-72, on Jan. 19 at the Spectrum with five different players scoring in double figures. Utah State has won six straight and 13 of its last 14 games heading into Tuesday’s contest, while Colorado State put together a three-game winning streak before last Saturday’s 77-65 loss at New Mexico.

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The outcome of Saturday’s game in Logan led to Nevada falling five spots to No. 17 in the latest AP Top 25 poll, but helped the Aggies pick up 17 votes – good for 29th in the nation. In addition, senior guard Sam Merrill picked up Mountain West Player of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 24 points and five rebounds per game in USU’s wins over SDSU and Nevada.

Aggies on the air

Utah State (24-6, 14-3) at Colorado State (12-17, 7-9)

Moby Arena – Fort Collins, Colorado

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