FORT COLLINS, Colo. — It almost looked like the comeback kids were going to pull another one off.
This time the Aggies came up just a little short after falling behind by double digits again in the second half. Colorado State made its free throws in the final minute as Utah State played without Justin Bean, who fouled out with 61 seconds to go.
The Rams were able to make enough plays down the stretch and then the foul shots to edge the Aggies Wednesday night at Moby Arena, 77-72, in a Mountain West Conference game.
“I’m just really proud of the team and how they fought back in the second half,” USU guard Sean Bairstow said. “We stuck together and made some timely plays. We just needed to make a couple of more. There’s not much else to say, but proud of the boys and the effort put forward.”
Bairstow scored a career-high 20 points in his second straight start, filling in for the injured Brock Miller.
The Rams (12-1, 2-1 MW) made all 10 of their foul shots over the final 61 seconds to seal the victory against the Aggies (10-6, 1-2).
“What a battle tonight,” CSU head coach Niko Medved said. “Our guys did a great job of finding a way. … This is a really good team win against a really good basketball team.”
Trailing 60-55 with 6:21 to play, USU made a push and took its only lead of the second half. A three-point play by Bairstow sparked a 7-0 run. Brandon Horvath scored on a rebound bucket to tie the game, and Bean made a fall away jumper off a pass from Steven Ashworth as he was falling out of bounds with the shot clock about to expire. Bean’s field goal gave the visitors a 62-60 lead with 4:36 to play.
“We are going to fight to the end no matter what,” Bairstow said. “We are always going to keep fighting. … Basketball is an up and down game. They hit shots and we hit shots.”
The Rams had huge buckets by David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens – two all-conference players – after they fell behind. Roddy nailed a 3-pointer to put the hosts back in front for good. Roddy and Stevens then proceeded to hit fall-away jumpers to cap a 7-0 surge by CSU.
“Roddy was magnificent,” USU head coach Ryan Odom said. “It was Stevens in the first half and Roddy in the second half.”
Bean fouled out with 14 points and six rebounds with 1:01 to play. It was the first time he has fouled out in his career. The Rams hit their free throws as USU had to play the foul game.
“When your leader fouls out like that, that was tough,” Odom said. “That is a rarity, because he plays with a presence without fouling. … I was proud of the other guys stepping in and playing so well.”
Joining Bairstow and Bean in double-digit scoring was Horvath (15) and Ashworth (13). Horvath also had team bests in rebounds (7) and assists (4).
Roddy led the Rams with a game-best 24 points, while Stevens netted 22. Chandler Jacobs had 11 points and a game-best nine rebounds. Jalen Lake netted 11.
Both teams scored in the first minute, but then buckets were hard to come by. USU did use a 6-0 surge to take a 10-5 lead with 12:36 left in the opening half. However, the Aggies could not take full advantage of the Rams going more than six minutes without scoring.
Colorado State ended its scoring drought with a 14-1 run. It was then USU’s turn to struggle from the field. The Aggies went three-and-a-half minutes without scoring and more than five minutes between field goals.
The Rams started raining 3-pointers, making four during their run. Jacobs capped the run with a trey, giving the hosts a 19-11 lead with 7:51 left in the first half.
A three-point play by Bean and the first 3-pointer of the game by USU by Bairstow seemingly got the Aggies going again. They pulled within 19-17 with 6:34 before halftime.
Then USU went another four minutes without putting a point on the board. Colorado State scored eight unanswered to build a 27-17 lead three minutes before the break.
The Rams made their seventh 3-pointer of the first half just before going into the locker room. USU had the ball and could hold for the last shot, but turned it over. Stevens made the Aggies pay, with a trey just before the horn. Colorado State took a 33-24 lead into halftime.
Bean scored the first six Aggie points of the second half, then Horvath scored a pair of buckets. But the Rams kept their nine-point lead with a pair of 3-pointers.
Bairstow made two foul shots and a bucket in traffic to cut the Aggie deficit to 43-38 with 13:06 left to play. USU had several possessions to get even closer, but couldn’t cash in.
Then the Rams pushed their lead back to nine.
Ashworth scored 10 straight points, the last six part of an 11-2 run that helped the Aggies get back in the game.
“It was a hard fought conference game,” Odom said. “Colorado State has an excellent team. … While it’s disappointing to lose in this fashion in such a tight game, you have to draw from the positives. Getting down and fighting back. It was a one-possession game, and Colorado State was able to make the plays they needed to make in order to finish it out.”
Utah State began the day at No. 66 in the Kenpom rankings, while Colorado State checked in at No. 51. … USU used the same starting lineup as last Saturday at New Mexico as Sean Bairstow got his third-ever start, joining Rylan Jones, RJ Eytle-Rock, Justin Bean and Brandon Horvath. …It was the first time this year the Aggies have had at least three players score in double figures and lost (10-1). … USU was 18 of 22 from the free throw line, marking the second most makes and attempts in a game this season. … Bean played in his 108th game as an Aggie, as he is now tied with Preston Bailess for 24th on that career list. ... The Aggies still lead the all-time series with the Rams 66-41.
In his second straight start, Sean Bairstow went out and scored a career-high 20 points on 8 of 15 shooting. He made all three of his free throws. The junior also had five rebounds and four steals. He played a career-high 38 minutes.
AGGIE DUNK/CHARGE COUNT
Brandon Horvath didn’t throw it down with much authority, but took a pass from Rylan Jones and two-handed it through three minutes into the game.
In the charge department, Justin Bean stood his ground midway through the opening half and Steven Ashworth got run over with seven minutes left in the first half.
There were no dunks or charges for the Aggies in the second half.
Season dunk count: Justin Bean 10, Trevin Dorius 9, Brandon Horvath 9, Sean Bairstow 5, Szymon Zapala 2, Zee Hamoda 1.
Season charge count: Rylan Jones 18, Steven Ashworth 3, Max Shulga 2, Justin Bean 2, Sean Bairstow 1, Travis Wagstaff 1.
The Aggies will finally get to play at home again and in their first conference game in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum this season. Wyoming (11-2, 0-0) is scheduled to come to Cache Valley on Saturday for a 7 p.m. game. The Cowboys have not played since Christmas Day and have had their last four contests postponed. They are the last team in the MW to play a league game.