Whew! Runnin’ Utes beat USU in down-to-the-wire epic

The Runnin’ Utes exorcised their demons Wednesday night, beating Utah State a year after losing to their in-state rivals by 26 in Logan.

But for a split second, it looked like the Utes (4-0) were going to fall again to the Aggies (2-2).

All the emotion in the Huntsman Center and clutch shooting was about to go for naught, because USU sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll found himself open from 18 feet with the Utes clinging to a one-point lead with only seconds remaining.

But the potential buzzer-beater rimmed out and time expired, leaving Utah a 67-66 victor.

“We ran a good play, my teammates set the right screens and got me open,” Carroll said. “I had a good look to win it, but it just fell a little short.”

The final attempt capped a frantic finish to a classic game. The Utes held a 67-66 advantage as the contest entered its final 90 seconds.

U center Luke Nevill stripped USU center Cass Matheus of the ball down low, and started the Utes on what looked like a momentum-swinging fast break.

But before the Ute fans could even cheer, U forward Bryant Markson had the ball stolen away by Aggie Chris Session.

On the ensuing possession, the Aggies gave the ball right back, throwing it out of bounds.

The Utes had the ball with a minute to go, but could not put USU away.

Ute point guard Johnnie Bryant was just off from 3-point range, leading to the climactic ending.

Aggie forward Chaz Spicer got the rebound with 32 seconds left, and after passing the ball around, Carroll came off a screen and managed to get the would-be game winner off.

“It’s not always going to be pretty, but if you give a great effort and play each possession like it’s your last, then you get fortunate every now and then,” U head coach Ray Giacoletti said. “At that point you leave it up to doing a great job to contest it and leave it up to him to make a tough shot.”

When all the dust had settled, Carroll had 18 points, but only on 7-of-17 shooting. Markson, tabbed with guarding the sophomore all night, managed to hold him to a manageable point total, while also excelling himself on the offensive side of the floor.

The senior finished with a team-high 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

“He got us going and we ran plays to him tonight to try to get him started,” Giacoletti said. “I thought everyone fed off his energy, especially on the defensive end.”

Also in double-figures for the Utes were Bryant with 14, Chris Jackson with 10 and Luke Nevill with 10.

Freshman guard Lawrence Borha also chipped in, scoring a career-high eight points, most of which came down the stretch.

Besides Carroll, Nate Harris was the only other Aggie in double-figures with 10.

From the beginning, the game was as back-and-forth as expected.

The Utes started off hot with Shaun Green nailing a 3-pointer right after a Markson runner to give the U a quick 5-0 lead.

But USU would answer right back, with David Pak getting a layup and Durrall Peterson sinking a three of his own to even it at five.

The fireworks continued all half, as the two squads combined for five ties and eight lead changes, Overall, the lead changed hands 16 times, with 15 ties, as the largest lead by either team was six-a margin the Utes held briefly late in the second half.

The Utes will now head out on a two-game road trip, starting with a Saturday afternoon tilt at Rice this weekend.

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