LOGAN, Utah — Tommy Rutherford’s 3-point attempt from the corner rimmed out at the buzzer, and UC Irvine dropped a 62-59 decision to Utah State on Wednesday night.
Sam Merrill scored 13 points, and Koby McEwen made a pair of free throws with 5.7 seconds left to help Utah State prevail in a defensive struggle that forced both teams to try to prove themselves at the free-throw line.
Quinn Taylor made a 3-pointer, McEwen a free throw and Merrill a jumper to give Utah State a 60-55 lead with 3:34 left, but UCI shot 4 for 6 from the line to pull within 60-59 with 24 seconds left. UCI’s Eyassu Worku drove the lane looking for a go-ahead basket in the final 10 seconds, but Utah State grabbed the rebound and McEwen made his free throws with 5.7 left.
UCI called a timeout with 1.1 seconds left to set up the final possession across the timeline, but Rutherford’s shot wouldn’t go. UCI (4-7) didn’t make a field goal over the final 4:35.
“It was a good college basketball game,” UCI coach Russell Turner said. “It came down to the wire, and we would have taken that coming into the game.”
Merrill scored 13 points to lead Utah State (5-5). UCI held McEwen to a 1-for-11 mark from the field, but he finished 7 for 9 from the free-throw line on his way to nine points.
Evan Leonard scored 12 points and Max Hazzard had 10 for UCI. Rutherford had eight points and nine rebounds.
Both teams shot 21 for 58 from the floor (36 percent), but the Aggies made seven 3-pointers compared to the Anteaters’ five from long range. UCI finished 12 for 18 from the free-throw line, while the Aggies were 13 for 17.
“We learned a lot about ourselves, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m pleased with the defensive performance of our team,” Turner said. “I thought we showed what I expect us to be able to show against a good team in a tough environment defensively. We didn’t shoot the ball well enough to win, and some of the credit there has to go to Utah…