With senior center Jared Shaw missing from the lineup, the Utah State Aggies suffered a disappointing loss in their first conference game as a Mountain West team. They came up short in the final seconds, falling on the road by a single point to the Air Force Falcons. They had the ball with twelve seconds left in the game, but the Falcons' defense forced a less than ideal shot; an off-balance three point effort by freshman Jalen Moore bounced off the rim, and a one-handed put back attempt by Spencer Butterfield rimmed out as the clock ran down to zero.
Fouls were a particularly difficult issue for the Aggies throughout the night, with 23 fouls being called against USU compared to 14 against the Falcons. The resulting free throws also held the Aggies back; they made 8 of 11 free throw attempts, compared to 19 of 24 for the Falcons. They forced three more turnovers than their hosts and had seven more assists, but lost the rebounding battle, 26 boards to 30.
For a team coming into the season with conference title aspirations, the Aggies' loss was a bitter pill to swallow. With Shaw watching from the bench- legal issues prevented him from playing- Jordan Stone took over the starting center position. Stone underwhelmed, unfortunately, failing to provide the strength of presence underneath the basket that the Aggies typically got from Shaw. Jordan, a senior, stands at 6'10" and weights 270 lbs, but was unable to use his size effectively; he recorded only one rebound and two points, and only played for ten minutes the entire night. Shaw averaged sixteen points, nearly eight rebounds, and one and a half blocks per game before being suspended from team activity midway through December.
The Aggies return home next week to host fellow MWC newcomer San Jose State. The vaunted USU Spectrum, once one of the most difficult arenas to visit in the country, has lost much of its aura of invulnerability over the last two seasons. In ten years, since the 2001 season, the Aggies had lost only 12 home games. After a loss to a ranked Nevada team in February 2006, they lost only two games at home until November 2011, an amazing 68 month span. The Aggies have since lost ten games in the Spectrum, over a mere 25 months, including the loss to Pacific this year. If they have any dreams left of finishing this season toward the top of the conference, they will need to reestablish their dominance on their home court.
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