Down 64-54 with just over two minutes to play, the Aggies outscored the Rams 19-5 the rest of the way to win the first-round Mountain West tournament game, 73-69, at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center.
Utah State, now 18-13, advances to face league regular season champion San Diego State on Thursday at noon. Colorado State fell to 16-16. The victory for Utah State is the first in the Mountain West tournament for one of the former Western Athletic Conference teams (along with Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and San Jose State) that joined the conference in the last three years.
A pair of free throws by Jon Octeus gave Colorado State a 64-54 lead with 2:19 to play. TeNale Roland of Utah State then drained a 3-pointer to cut the Rams' lead to 64-57 with 2:12 left but Dwight Smith's jumper put Colorado State back up 66-57 with 1:35 to play.
Roland, who had 14 points, then had a lay-up to slice the deficit to 66-59 with 1:24 to go. Colorado State's Smith then missed a free throw with 1:07 to play, opening the door for the Aggies' comeback.
Jalen Moore hit a 3-pointer to pull the Aggies within 66-62 with 59 seconds to play and Moore then stole the ball from Colorado State's Daniel Bejarano with 50 seconds left, leading to a 3-pointer by Spencer Butterfield with 42 seconds left as Utah State cut the Rams' lead to just 66-65.
Utah State took the lead, 67-66, on a pair of free throws by Butterfield with 40 seconds to play and Moore gave the Aggies a 69-66 lead with two free throws with 22 seconds to play.
Octeus kept Colorado State in the game with a jumper with 19 seconds to go but Butterfield hit four free throws in a span of six seconds to give Utah State a 73-69 lead with eight seconds left.
"We could have just cashed it in but we didn't," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said after the game. "I'm proud of our guys."
Utah State was 11-of-21 on 3-pointers while Colorado State was just 3-of-17.
"You have to make threes against Colorado state because that's the way their defense is," Morrill said. "They take away the inside stuff."
Preston Medlin led Utah State with 17 points and Butterfield and Roland finished with 14. Jarred Shaw finished with seven points and eight rebounds and Kyle Davis had eight points, six rebounds off the bench.
Colorado State got 21 points and eight rebounds from Smith and 19 points and eight rebounds from Octeus. J.J. Avila had 10 points and Bejarano had five points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Utah State has beaten Colorado State three times this season.