Conference setback

Jan 8 2012 - 1:04am

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LOGAN -- Oh-so-close -- over and over again -- was the mantra Saturday night for Utah State.

The Aggies took all the momentum and seemed set to cruise on a late run after Brockeith Pane hit a three-pointer to tie the battle at 56 midway through the second half.

And signs seemed to indicate that perhaps USU might have just one more critical spurt in them when on-fire-of-late Kyisean Reed re-entered the game with four fouls with 6:40 remaining.

There even seemed to be plenty of air left in the Aggies after Preston Medlin nailed a tough floater to cut the Nevada lead to two with 1:05 left.

Much to the surprise of many of the screaming Aggie faithful in a sellout game against Nevada, none of the aforementioned materialized. Nevada (12-3, 2-0 WAC), the coaches' pick as the WAC champions before the season began, won a huge conference battle against Utah State (9-7, 1-1 WAC), 78-71, Saturday night at the Spectrum.

The Wolfpack win marks the second loss at home for the Aggies this season after previously having their 33-game home win streak, the nation's third-longest at the time, get snapped in a Nov. 30 loss to Denver. USU also suffered their first home conference since a March 3, 2007 defeat at the hands of Fresno State.

"We had lots of chances to go ahead and we just didn't capitalize," USU coach Stew Morrill said. "It is an issue for this team to practice hard every day, and we're not overly athletic. But we kept playing and we just didn't quite get there."

USU still had plenty of life after Pane, who scored 21 points and dished six assists, hit two free throws to cut the Aggies' deficit to four with 3:18 to play, preceding Medlin's score. But Nevada's star point guard Deonte Burton, the coaches' WAC Preseason Player of the Year, hit a deep, awkward, high-arching three-pointer while getting fouled by Pane with 37 seconds to go. His subsequent free throw conversion created a 74-68 Wolfpack advantage that proved enough to send the Aggies on a four-game road trip looking up in the conference standings.

"I don't feel like I fouled him, but when you are playing as hard as we were tonight sometimes those things happen," Pane said of Burton's pivotal shot. "We played from behind the whole game. They came in ready to play. This team came in hungry for a win."

Pane did follow Burton's four-point play by nailing a leaping-and-leaning three-pointer from the corner to move USU within one possession, but it wasn't quite enough.

Nevada benefitted from a 10-rebound edge (34-24) against the Aggies, 12 of which came from forward Dario Hunt, who ripped 12 rebounds, seven on the offensive glass. They primarily came against 16-point scorer Morgan Grim and freshman forward Ben Clifford, who played 29 minutes in lieu of Reed's foul trouble. Reed was limited to 11 total minutes after racking up three fouls in the first half alone.

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