AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Utah State’s men’s basketball Mountain West Conference debut was spoiled by Air Force Wednesday night, as the Falcons nipped the Aggies, 73-72, at USAFA’s Clune Arena.
USU was playing in its first Mountain West game, and fell to 0-1 in league play, while now 10-3 overall on the year. Air Force improved to 7-5 overall and 1-0 in MW action. The Falcons have won their conference opener in each of the last three years, all against league newcomers. Wednesday was the first meeting between USU and Air Force since 2000, as the loss snapped a seven-game win streak in the series, leveling the meetings at Air Force Academy at 3-3, as Wednesday was the Aggies’ first visit to the Falcons’ home court since 1977, while closing USU’s overall series lead to 10-3.
Senior guard Preston Medlin led four Aggie players in double-digit scoring with 19 points, while senior guard/forward Spencer Butterfield posted 16 points and freshman forward Jalen Moore netted a season-high by matching his jersey number with 14 points, posting double-digits for the second time in three games. Sophomore forward Kyle Davis logged his second-straight double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and his fourth double-double of the season. It was the seventh double-figure scoring outing and fifth double-digit rebounding game this season, including the fourth in last five games.
The Aggies dished out 21 assists Wednesday, for their third-straight game with 20+ helpers, and the fifth game this season with 20 ore more assists. Sophomore guard Marcel Davis dished out six assists, all in the first four minutes of the second half, as the Aggies hit six of their first seven shots, rallying from down 39-34 at the half. Medlin had four helpers and Butterfield, Kyle Davis and senior guard TeNale Roland had three assists each. Kyle Davis had all three of USU’s blocks in the game.
Air Force was led by 21 points apiece from Marek Olesinski and Max Yon, while Tre’ Coggins added 14 points. Kamryn Williams snared a team-high 11 rebounds, helping Air Force to a 30-26 rebounding advantage, just the third time this season the USU has been out-rebounded and the first in a loss.
USU shot 27-of-56 (48.2 percent) from the field, as well as 10-of-27 (37.0 percent) from three-point range, along with 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) at the free throw line. Air Force scorched the nets to the tune of 56.0 percent (14-of-25) from the field in the first half, finishing the night at 51.1 percent (24-of-47). The Falcons also were 6-of-16 (37.5 percent) behind the arc, along with more than doubling-up the Aggies’ free throw attempts, making 19-of-24 (79.2 percent), taking advantage of the 23 fouls called on USU while Air Force was whistled for 14 fouls.
The Falcons opened a 15-11 lead after a three by Olesinski from the top of the arc with 13:18 on the first-half clock. The Aggies cut the gap to one point on several different occasions, but couldn’t get over the hump until the 3:02 mark of the half after a three-pointer by Roland knotted the score at 30-all. Air Force zoomed ahead at 39-31 with 1:00 to go after a trey by Zach Kocur, before Medlin countered with a trey with 35 seconds on the clock to pull USU to 39-34 at the half.
USU bolted out of the second-half gates, hitting six of its first seven shots, taking a 49-43 lead with 16:21 on the clock after back-to-back treys by Butterfield and Medlin, forcing an Air Force timeout. The Aggie advantage swelled to 55-46 after a trey by Roland at the 13:50 mark. The Falcons clawed away at the Aggies’ lead, taking a 70-69 lead after an Olesinski jumper with 4:13 to go. Moore skied for a rebound and putback with 1:20 to play to knot the score at 72-all. Coggins hit 1-of-2 free throws with 53 seconds left for a 73-72 lead, but USU couldn’t overcome the Air Force defense and score, suffering the conference-opening loss.
The Aggies return home for their MW home-opener against a familiar foe, hosting fellow MW rookie and former Western Athletic Conference foe, San José State, on Saturday, Jan. 4. The Aggies-Spartans match-up will not be televised, but digitally streamed through on USU’s website, www.UtahStateAggies.com.
USU men’s basketball single-game, multi-game and season tickets are on sale. Big Blue Scholarship Fund members and season-ticket holders have the rest of this week to purchase all single-game tickets for the rest of the season before they go on sale to the public on Monday, Jan. 6. Single-game tickets will cost $18 for non-priority and $20 for priority, as well as $25 for premium game against UNLV (Feb. 15).
To order a package or for more Aggie men’s basketball ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the “Buy Tickets” tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Fans can follow the Aggie men’s basketball program at twitter.com/AggieHoops. USU fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics, on facebook at Utah State University Athletics or on instagram at instagram.com/USUAthletics.