USU vs Loyola Marymount women’s basketball. 11/19/21. Photo by Rick Parker

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State women’s basketball came back from a 15-point halftime deficit but was unable to escape with the victory in a 69-66 loss to Loyola Marymount on Friday night.

“I think we just dug too big of a hole,” head coach Kayla Ard said. “We’ve gotten lucky a couple times this year in digging a hole and being able to dig out of it, and we did dig out of it tonight. But by that time, we’d exhausted all of our energy to do that that we couldn’t finish the game.”

LMU struck quickly to build an 8-2 lead through the first minute of play, briefly extending the lead to double digits in the first quarter. Utah State trimmed the lead back down to three points at 23-20 via a 9-2 run bridging the first and second quarters. The Lions countered with a 14-4 run to again stretch the lead into double digits. LMU entered halftime with a 43-28 cushion.

In the second half, the Aggies again stormed back from a double-digit deficit, starting the quarter on a 20-5 run to tie the game at 48. Utah State would eventually take their first lead of the game at 55-52 off a made 3-pointer from sophomore Faith Brantley early in the fourth quarter.

“She helped us quite a bit,” coach Ard said of Brantley, who finished the night with 15 points, three rebounds and two assists. “She’s exhausted. She’s been out for a while… We’ve been missing that. We need that quite a bit. Manna (Mensah) has been playing a lot of minutes for us at the point. We’ve had to stick some other people up there that aren’t actually point guards. Really nice to have her back.”

Having erased another large deficit, the Aggies were unable to maintain their own lead as the Lions responded to USU’s first lead of the game with a 14-2 run to take a 66-57 with two minutes remaining. Senior Kaylin Randhawa almost led another miraculous Aggie comeback by hitting a 3-pointer and three free throws after being fouled on another. The lead proved unassailable, however, as the Lions were able to ice the game at the free throw line in the final minute.

“We’ve got to figure it out,” coach Ard said, “because if we keep digging holes like this, it’s going to be a long season. Had we not dug that hole tonight and we played the way we played in the third quarter, this would be a completely different ball game… We can’t wait until the second half to turn it on… We can’t keep digging holes like this. So we have to grow up and mature quite a bit as a team.”

Randhawa led the Aggies in scoring with 19 points, three assists and four steals. Senior E’Lease Stafford added 11 points plus four steals and two blocks. Senior Laci Hawthorne posted a team-high seven rebounds on the night along with seven points and two assists. Senior Emmie Harris played a key role in USU’s second-half comeback with two points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal off the bench. Junior Shyla Latone also made her season debut on Friday, playing five minutes.

“Our biggest thing right now that we’ve got to focus on is getting healthy and getting some rest,” coach Ard said. “We’ve been going for 10 straight days without a day off so our kids are exhausted. Tomorrow’s an off day, a much needed off day… We’ve got to get healthy and take care of our bodies a little bit and then get back to work.”

Next up for Utah State, the Aggies will take on BYU in Provo on Tuesday, Nov. 23, at noon.

Fans can follow USU women’s basketball on Twitter, @USUWBasketball, on Instagram, @USUWBasketball, as well as on Facebook, at /USUWBB. Aggie fans can also follow Utah State Athletics on Twitter, @USUAthletics, on Instagram, @USUAthletics and on Facebook at /USUAthletics.



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