LOGAN – Darius Brown is no stranger to hitting huge shots. His late-game heroics are why Utah State entered Saturday evening’s game against New Mexico 8-0 in games decided by five points or less.

Make that 9-0 for the Aggies in close games and another big-time shot on Brown’s resume.

Over the final eight minutes of USU’s 87-85 win over the Lobos, both sides refused to back down, trading buckets as Utah State fought for the right to an outright Mountain West regular season title and New Mexico fought to play spoiler and perhaps add a crucial win to its shaky NCAA Tournament resume.

It started with Brown hitting a pair of free throws on a one-and-one with 7:42 on the clock. That tipped the game from a 69-68 advantage to New Mexico to a 70-69 lead for the Aggies.

Little would anyone realize, but that would be the last time the Lobos led in the game, though it hardly felt like it at times.

Six times in those final seven minutes and change, New Mexico tied the game. Every big shot the Aggies hit, the Lobos found a response.

Brown spins Jaelen House out of his shoes, drives the lane and then and finds Ian Martinez for a wide-open three to go up 73-70? New Mexico gets three points across two possessions to tie it back up 73-all.

Josh Uduje hits a three of his own to go up 78-75? The Lobos again respond with three points, largely at the foul line, to tie it yet again.

The closest the Aggies got to pulling away was a four-point lead. Kalifa Sakho, a 51 percent free throw shooter, nailed both shots in a trip to the charity stripe and after a rare stop on the other end, Mason Falslev hit a layup with just over two minutes to play for an 82-78 lead, but two layups from Donovan Dent later and the game was tied at 82 apiece with a minute to play.

“Neither team could get a stop,” USU head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “And we’re not as explosive as they are offensively. And so I was concerned. I was like, we just have to somehow get two stops in a row.”

Utah State never really did get those two stops in a row down the stretch. It simply came down to leaving almost no time on the clock for New Mexico to respond. And after one last time trading buckets to make it 84-84, a chance to set up one final go-ahead bucket presented itself to the Aggies.

Tie game. Aggie Ball. Game clock read 29. Shot Clock read 25.

Perhaps everyone knew where the ball would eventually end up, but for the first 20 seconds of that possession, Martinez dribbled the ball with his heels planted on the mid-court logo.

With eight seconds on the shot clock, Martinez sprung into action, sliding around a slip screen from Brown before swinging it back to the point guard. Brown pitched it inside to Great Osobor who got triple-teamed by Lobo defenders. With just two seconds left on the shot clock, Osobor kicked the ball back to Brown on the left wing who let it fly over a heavy contest from House.

The net barely moved as Brown’s shot went through.

“I was ready to shoot,” Brown said, “because when the shot clock is going down, those are probably sometimes like – I’m not gonna say the easiest but it’s like you’re comfortable – because you know there’s nothing to do but shoot it. You have one choice and that’s to shoot it.”

The entire Dee Glen Smith Spectrum erupted into an deafening roar, nearly drowning out the whistles as New Mexico called its final timeout to try and figure something out with the remaining 4.2 seconds given to them.

“What did they say about Aaron Boone like, Aaron [pause] Boone. It’s Darius [pause] Brown,” Sprinkle said, the pauses from him in the sentence being self-censoring for an expletive that begins with “F” and rhymes with “ducking.”

Those final four seconds did end up holding some level of excitement, or perhaps confusion. The Aggies fouled House before he could attempt any shot, forcing him to the line for two free throws with a three-point deficit. House hit the first shot and then purposefully missed the second. That second free-throw didn’t hit the rim, which is a violation that in this situation should have given Utah State the ball.

But the violation wasn’t called and House recovered the ball and threw up a last-second shot but it fell well short anyway.

After the game, lead official Mike Littlewood gave a written statement that was passed on to the media, saying “We did not notice on the court that the ball did not hit the rim, so we let play continue until the game clock expired.”

The final seven minutes, with all its packed action, hardly came out of nowhere. Both sides were trading runs and leads from the very beginning.

Despite New Mexico starting the game by shooting 74 percent, Utah State built three separate six-point leads in the first half and maintained a relatively constant lead up until the final seven minutes of the opening half. During that span, the Lobos went on a 15-4 run, flipping one of USU’s six-point advantage to a five-point halftime lead, 44-39, for the visitors.

Much like their previous game against the Lobos, which the Aggies lost 99-86, they struggled to slow down Nelly Junior Joseph and JT Toppin. The two started a perfect 6 for 6 shooting in the game and had 16 first-half points.

“It’s hard just because they’re so big and athletic,” Sprinkle said. “I mean, Toppin, he’s not only one of the best freshmen in the league. He’s one of the best freshmen in the country. And there’s a reason he’s probably on (NBA) Draft boards. And Nelly Joseph’s so big and physical. They have great touch. It didn’t seem like they missed anything from six feet and in all night. Like even some of their tough jump hooks, they made them.”

Mustapha Amzil also joined the fray in scoring, though he did most of his early damage from the perimeter, hitting a trio of 3-pointers. He ended up being New Mexico’s leading scorer with 18 points (13 of which came in the first half).

Utah State needed a response in the first four minutes of the second half. Sprinkle has long preached the merits of winning the last four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second half. The Aggies lost the former battle, but they could still win the latter, which is what they did. New Mexico’s halftime lead didn’t survive two minutes into the second half as USU burst out with a 6-0 run to retake the lead.

But that didn’t even end up being the biggest rally of the game for the Aggies. They also overcame a six-point hole, 65-59 which New Mexico achieved with 11 minutes to play. Utah State’s rally from that deficit took nearly four minutes, but Brown’s free throws to make it 70-69 (see above) completed the final comeback of the game for the Aggies.

Martinez finished the night as the leading scorer with 22 points. Osobor recorded his 14th double-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds. Brown’s game-winning shot put him just shy of the 20-point mark and he finished just shy of a double-double himself with 19 points, nine assists. Falslev added 10 points to join the ranks of the double-figure scorers. But each of the Aggies, from one end of the bench all the way down, ended the night as one singular thing.

Mountain West Champions.

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