Utah State women's basketball

Utah State guard Faith Brantley (0) drives to the basket against Air Force on Thursday. She had a career-high 17 points in the Aggie win.

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Starting the new year the way they ended 2020 would be just fine with the Aggie women’s basketball team.

Utah State rallied to beat Air Force Thursday afternoon, 70-66, in its Mountain West Conference home opener. The Aggies (3-4, 1-1 MW) will host the Falcons (2-4, 0-1) again on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for the second and final game of the series. The game will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.

In Thursday’s game, neither team enjoyed more than an eight-point lead throughout the contest. The Aggies trailed the Falcons heading into the fourth quarter, 60-53.

USU held Air Force to just six fourth-quarter points on 1 of 12 shooting from the field, while forcing five turnovers and outrebounding the Falcons 13-8 in the final period.

Stretching between the third and fourth quarters, Aggie sophomore guard Faith Brantley scored nine straight points. She scored 13 of her career-high 17 points in the second half while shooting 7 of 9 from the field. Brantley also tied a career-high with eight rebounds and dished out two assists.

“We really wanted this win tonight. We were in the Spectrum for the first time in conference, it was big for us,” USU head coach Kayla Ard said. “The girls were definitely prepared and they were locked in all week. We didn’t play great, but at the end of the third quarter we had a very energetic huddle and I thought we just responded very well in the fourth. We held them to six points in the fourth quarter, which was huge, and that was just about heart.”

Junior Monique Pruitt also had a career game for the Aggies, coming off the bench to contribute career-highs of 18 points and seven rebounds before fouling out.

“This win means a lot because the last couple of games we lost were very close games,” Pruitt said. “We just worked hard, we really wanted this game especially at home when we have fans here to cheer us on.”

Joining Brantley and Pruitt in double-figure scoring was forward Bre Mathews with 12. Forward Jessica Chatman added eight points and eight rebounds.

The Falcons were led by forward Riley Snyder who finished with a game-best 25 points, 22 of which came in the first half. Guard Emily Conroe recorded a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

As a team, USU shot 38.7 percent from the field, 33.3 percent (4 of 12) from 3-point range and 66.7 percent (18 of 27) from the free throw line. Air Force shot 35.8 percent from the field, while shooting 23.8 percent (5 of 21) from the 3-point line and 52.0 percent (13 of 25) from the charity stripe.

The Aggies edged the Falcons in the rebound department, 46-44. USU went into the game leading the MW and ranking 12th nationally in defensive rebounds with 32.7 a game. The Aggies had 33 on Thursday.

USU leads the all-time series with Air Force, 11-5.

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