<strong>San Jose, Calif.—</strong> Utah State guard Spencer Butterfield returned to his home state Friday night as the Aggies battled WAC foe San Jose State. The competitive junior made sure it was a positive experience as he led USU to a 63-36 win over the Spartans.
Butterfield extended his incredible double-double streak to five games, as he finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Aggies. The win was USU’s third straight – all on the road – and kept Utah State in the thick of things in the Western Athletic Conference.
“He’s undersized with everything but his heart, but he just battles. He’s got a great knack for rebounding, just a great knack, and really thinks he can play and he can, he’s right,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “He’s aggressive, he’s a very good shooter, always looking to get extra shots. He had a special night.
Playing their only game of the week in an unusual Friday night slot, the Aggies showed no signs of slowing down from the energetic pace that helped them pick up road wins at Idaho and Seattle last week. After a back-and-forth start, USU embarked on a 14-0 run over an almost nine minute stretch that turned a 17-11 game into a 31-11 blowout.
“I think a major key was our defense,” Butterfield said. “We were confusing them, switching up the defenses between zone, man, and press. I think it was hard for them to find a rhythm.”
During the run, nearly every Aggie chipped in – including seldom used center Matt Lopez with a nice jump-hook – as Butterfield was the only USU player to record multiple baskets during the spurt.
The Spartans long drought aided the Aggies in their best defensive effort of the season. Utah State held SJSU to a mere 26.5 percent shooting, and an even more dismal 20 percent (4-of-20) from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, USU converted nearly 52 percent of its attempts, including 47 percent (8-of-17) from beyond the arc.
“You’ve got to be pleased with coming in here and holding them down. They’re obviously having trouble scoring right now, but I think we were part of the problem tonight at least,” Morrill said.
By the time the first half ended, Utah State (17-5, 8-4) held a comfortable 34-16 lead over the Spartans.
To open the second half, SJSU’s D.J. Brown swiped the ball from USU freshman Marcel Davis for an easy layup. After an Aggie miss, the Spartans connected from long range to cut the lead to 15, at 36-21 – but that’s as close as the home team would get.
A 10-point run during the middle part of the second half took away any doubt about how the game would end, as the Aggies opened up a 28 point lead, 58-30, with six minutes remaining, before coasting to the victory.
“That’s our main focus, just play as hard as we can. I’m proud of the guys, and I’m proud to be a part of this team, because we’re all just working so hard right now,” Butterfield said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a really fun kind of basketball right now.”
Along with Butterfield’s stellar night, Jarred Shaw and Davis also reached double figures for the Aggies tallying 12 points each. TeNale Roland and Marvin Jean also pitched in well for USU, finishing with seven and six points, respectively.
Though Butterfield was the only player to reach double digits in rebounding, the Aggies outrebounded the Spartans, 38-24, and held SJSU – who is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the WAC – to only seven offensive boards.
Following the long road trip, USU returns home to host two of the top three teams in the conference, with Denver coming to town for a Valentine’s Day showdown on Feb. 14, and New Mexico State visiting the Spectrum on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tipoff for both of those games is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“The last time we played these two teams, one of them carved us up – that being Denver U, and one of them beat us up – that being New Mexico State,” Morrill said. “We’ve got to work on not getting carved up and not getting big-boyed, not getting beat up. Challenging games coming up, but nice to be coming off some wins.”