One word pretty much summed up how the Aggies felt Wednesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The Utah State women’s basketball team had an opportunity to end a skid and beat a team just ahead of it in the Mountain West standings. It didn’t happen.
The Aggies struggled mightily to find the bottom of the net, and that cost them against Fresno State. The Bulldogs used a 10-0 run to end the first half and never looked back in a 64-53 victory.
“This was an extremely — highlighted, capital letters, underlined, bold font — frustrating home game,” USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “It was just a very, very poor shooting night. ... We are at home. We couldn’t even make layups. There is no answers for it. If there is a silver lining, we played so poorly against one of the best teams in the Mountain West and still had a chance. This is probably one of the most frustrating games of the season.”
After being near the top of the league standings several weeks ago, the Aggies (10-11, 5-5 MW) are back in the pack after dropping their fourth straight. The Bulldogs (14-7, 7-3) are in third.
“This game meant a lot,” Finkbeiner said. “We failed, and it’s very frustrating. ... I hate to have home games like this. I think we will bounce out of it.”
To get back in the win column, USU must shoot better. The Aggies finished the night shooting 30.2 percent from the field and made a paltry 3 of 22 shots from long range. USU also missed six free throws — all in the second half.
“Like coach said, we need to shoot better,” said Aggie forward Hailey Bassett, who finished with a game and career-high 27 points. “We could have found different ways to score than to just keep shooting threes. We shot ourselves out of the game.”
Bassett certainly carried the offensive load Wednesday night as the only Aggie to reach double digits. She was 10 of 18 from the field. Bassett also recorded her third double-double of her career as she grabbed a game-best 10 boards.
“Hailey had a good night,” Finkbeiner said. “We needed others to join her.”
For the second straight game USU’s Shannon Dufficy was held in check. After nine straight games with a double-double — which is a school record — the junior saw a number of double teams and just never could get on track offensively. She finished with seven points on 2 of 6 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out a team-best five assists.
“Give credit to Fresno State; they played a really good defensive game,” Bassett said. “In the first half, they (Bulldogs) doubled her (Dufficy) quite a bit and that’s where a lot of my shots came from.”
The Bulldogs shot 38.8 percent from the field and had four players reach double figures. Bree Delaney led the way with 15 points, followed by Aly Gamez (14), Maddi Utti (13) and Candice White (10).
The Aggies actually played with the Bulldogs in the first and fourth quarters. It was the middle two periods that proved costly.
Bassett scored the first eight points of the game for USU, who built a 10-7 lead in the early going. By the end of the opening quarter, Fresno State was in front, 19-17.
Dufficy hit a pull-up jumper, and Eliza West swished one of the few 3-pointers by the Aggies to give the hosts a 28-26 lead with 6:46 left in the first half. It would be the last lead USU enjoyed and the last points of the second quarter.
The Bulldogs scored 10 straight points as the Aggies couldn’t buy a bucket. USU went 10 possessions without scoring as Fresno State took a 38-28 lead into the break.
There would be another stretch of more than five minutes the Aggies couldn’t get a shot to drop, other than one foul shot. The Bulldogs took a 50-37 lead into the final quarter.
The hosts tried to show some life. Olivia West hit a 3-pointer, and Bassett scored five straight points as USU got within 58-52 with 2:15 to play. The Aggies would not get any closer, blowing some layups and committing a turnover.
“We need to keep our heads up and play harder,” Bassett said. “... We need to make those layups and take the momentum. If we would had done that, we might have come back and won the game.”
Fresno State sank all six free throws it attempted down the stretch and finished a perfect 19 of 19 for the game.
The Aggies will try and end their skid Saturday against San Diego State. The Aztecs are near the bottom of the MW standings.
“We will bounce back,” Bassett said.