Looking for its first win at Utah State in a decade, Idaho found itself in an unfamiliar place at the Spectrum – leading by eight points with 3:38 to play – but two turnovers, three missed shots and key defensive miscues saw the Aggies close the gap on a Preston Medlin 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds to play.
In overtime, Idaho struck first to go up 71-69, but then Utah State went on a 9-1 run over the next three minutes to effectively put the game away.
With the loss, Idaho slips to 6-7 overall and 2-1 in Western Athletic Conference play, while the Aggies move to 13-1 overall and 4-0 in the WAC.
“It’s a game, with where we had it and how the last four or five minutes go, it’s obviously going to stick in our hearts,” Idaho head coach Don Verlin said after the game. “We did a lot of good things, but when you’re up six with three (minutes) to go, it’s one you’d like to finish.”
Sophomore guard Connor Hill led Idaho with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while senior center Kyle Barone notched a double-double for a fourth-consecutive game with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but scored just five points after halftime. Senior guard Mike McChristian notched the first double-double of his career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Utah State junior guard Preston Medlin led all players with 22 points and did most of his damage with 14 points in the final five minutes of regulation and beyond. Junior center Jarred Shaw had 12 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out early in overtime.
As a team, Idaho shot 48.3 percent from the floor (29-60) and 33.3 percent from 3-point range (8-24). The Vandals entered the game as one of the better free throw shooting teams in the conference, but hit just nine of 18 attempts for a season-low-tying 50 percent clip.
Utah State finished the game shooting 27-of-65 (.415) overall, 4-of-16 (.250) from 3-point range and 24-of-33 (.727) from 3-point range. The Aggies also held a 46-36 rebounding edge, including 20 offensive rebounds that turned into 22 second-chance points. USU also held a 17-6 edge in points off turnovers.
Verlin said that despite the setbacks, whether they were USU offensive rebounds or turnovers, he was proud of how his team battled and had itself in a position to win the game before Medlin’s last-second 3-pointer.
“We didn’t execute like we were supposed to on that last play. They got done what they needed to, made that shot and they were able to get us in overtime,” Verlin said. “We had our chances, but it’s just heartbreaking that we didn’t get out of here with a win, because we deserved that win.”
After playing its first three WAC games on the road, Idaho returns home to Moscow next week, where it will face conference newcomer Denver on Thursday and New Mexico State on Saturday. The Pioneers (6-7, 2-1 WAC) host UTSA on Sunday, while the Aggies (8-8, 2-2 WAC) defeated Texas State at home on Saturday by a 78-67 margin.
Both games tip off at 7:05 p.m. (PT) at the Cowan Spectrum.