One of the questions that Utah State basketball had coming into the season was who was going to be able to make up for the loss of Sam Merrill and if Utah State was going to be able to sustain the success they had last season. The first half against VCU looked good for Utah State as they led 41-38. Going into the game, Utah State had a 63.3% chance to win according to ESPN and a 66.7% chance by the end of the half.
The second half did not go well for the Aggies. They were outscored 47-28 and a close game at the half turned into an 85-69 blowout loss. Center Neemias Queta was the leading scorer for the Aggies with 17 points. He played 28 minutes and was 5-12 on field goals (41.7%) and 7-12 on free throws (58.3%). Neemias had two turnovers, two fouls, an assist, and a block in addition to 10 rebounds, five offensive, five defensive. Forward Justin Bean played 31 minutes and scored 13 points. He was 5-8 on field goals (62.5%) and 0-2 from three point range. Bean was 3-4 on free throws (75%) and had two turnovers, two fouls, a block and an assist along with four defensive rebounds. Rollie Worster played 24 minutes and was 4-9 on field goals (44.4%), 2-2 on free throws, and had four turnovers and four fouls. Guard Brock Miller played 21 minutes and was 3-7 on his shots (42.8%), scoring 8 points, 2-5 on three balls (60%). He had three rebounds, two offensive recounds, one defensive rebound, and an assist. Guard Marco Anthony played the most minutes, 34, and was 2-5 on his shots, 0-1 from three point range. He as 2-4 on the free throws and had five rebounds, a steal, four turnovers and two fouls. Sophomore Guard Sean Bairstow was the most productive player off the bench for the Aggies and he scored 8 points on 2-5 shooting, 1-1 from three point range, and 3-4 from the free throw line. In addition to the points he scored, he posted an assist and two steals but had two turnovers and three fouls.
Two statistics stand out in this game. First is the shooting percentage. VCU as a team was 28-53 on their shots which was good for 52.8% on field goal shooting. Utah State was 24-56, good for 42.9% of shooting. There is almost a 10% difference in field goal percentage and that makes a difference when the game is closer, Utah State was also 4-17 (23.5%) threes while VCU was 10-24 (41.7%). The other statistic that stands out is turnovers, VCU did have 14 turnovers but Utah State had 18, which is not a good number when playing from behind. In terms of free throw percentage, Utah State attempted 26 free throws as a team but only made 17 of those shots (65.4%). VCU attempted 22 free throws and made 19 (86.4%). The Aggies had 3 steals and 1 block but VCU had 10 steals and 7 blocks, which makes a big difference. VCU also led Utah State in the assists category with a 16-8 advantage.
So really the reason this game became more out of hand in the second half is because VCU played a better half than Utah State and led the Aggies in several categories. They had a much better shooting percentage, a better free throw percentage, and were able to force more turnovers. With the Aggies only shooting 42.9% and the Rams forcing turnovers, the game got out of Utah State’s reach quickly. In order for the Aggies to improve going forward, they need to play better defense and they need to make more of their shots.
Next up for the Aggies is a game against South Dakota State later tonight at 7:30 PM EST on ESPN2. Utah State is favored by -2.5.