LOGAN -- Stew Morrill couldn't have agreed more: in their BracketBusters battle against UC-Santa Barbara Saturday night, the Gauchos revealed one already-quite-obvious truth about the Utah State men's basketball team.
They're just not very good -- and it didn't help that their opponent was a bit better.
Final score: 72-64.
Despite climbing within four points with less than six minutes remaining, a series of unfortunate events helped UCSB regain a double-digit lead literally seconds later, causing USU (14-14) to lose their fourth game at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum this season. The Gaucho duo of Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally proved to be far too much for the Aggies, as the guard-forward tandem combined for 46 points on 16-26 shooting, including a 7-11 effort from distance. Johnson scored 22 points, while Nunnally scored 24 and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"We knew we didn't draw a poor Big Sky team; we drew a really good Big West team," Morrill said after the Aggies' fourth loss at the Smith Spectrum this season. "We played hard and kept battling, but they are a veteran team and a good team and they showed it."
After trailing by as many as 16 points with 11:18 left in the second half, the Aggies had climbed as close as 56-52 following five straight points from Brockeith Pane. But following a top-of-the-key three-point attempt from guard Preston Medlin that rimmed out, forward Morgan Grim was called for a technical foul after UCSB forward Jaime Serna had been called on a foul on Grim on the rebound attempt with 6:14 to go. Nunnally converted the two subsequent free throws to precede a fast-break layup by Serna and two free throws from Christian Peterson to return the Gaucho lead to 62-52 less than a minute after the Aggies had built a 17-5 run. The Gaucho lead grew as high as 13 while USU couldn't draw closer than eight the remaining 5:22 of the contest.
"A really bonehead play, obviously," Morrill said of Grim's momentum-shifting foul. "It wasn't a smart play. He knows it."
When asked if he knew what Grim said to Serna after Serna's foul, Morrill hesitated before saying that he didn't know.
"I don't really care," he said. "You can't do that."
The Aggies' final lead of the game came at the 7:28 mark of the first half, when a free throw shot from Reed gave USU the advantage. The starting forward, returned to the starting lineup with Pane after a one-game disciplinary measure, was pulled with 5:22 left in the game after scoring just two points and grabbing no rebounds in the second half. Reed finished the game with 10 points and just one rebound in 25 minutes.
USU's Jordan Stone played 10 minutes above his average per game, playing 18 minutes while grabbing eight rebounds. His 6-10 size served well to match-up against UCSB 7-foot-3 center Greg Somogyi.
The Aggies return to WAC action at the Spectrum Friday at 7 p.m. against Idaho.