LOGAN— After falling behind early, Utah State came back to beat the Illinois State Redbirds, 80-71, in the ESPNU BracketBusters game. USU has now won five of its last seven games and returns to conference play next week.
“It was a great team win,” USU junior guard Spencer Butterfield said. “The team effort was phenomenal. Everyone contributed tonight. It was just a lot of fun and a good team win.”
Jarred Shaw led the way for the Aggies with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Butterfield, TeNale Roland, and Marvin Jean all chipped in double-digit points for USU in the win. ISU’s Tyler Brown led all scorers with a 35 point performance, while Jackie Carmichael added 20 for the Redbirds.
“Tyler Brown is a great player,” USU freshman point guard Marcel Davis said. “He had like five 3’s in the first half. Once we got out and tried to defend his 3-pointers and we were in good shape. First of all, we had to limit what (Jackie) Carmichael and (Taylor) Brown could do, a lot of their points came through those two so we had to change up of defensive looks and try to limit what they could do.”
Early on, the Aggies weren’t limiting much of anything, as the Redbirds held a 21-10 lead with 12:31 left in the half. The Aggies then answered with a 13-0 run, capped by a Roland 3-pointer.
The Redbirds were hot from long range throughout the first half. ISU made eight 3-pointers during that time and didn’t make a field goal inside the arc until there was only 1:27 before halftime.
At the half, Utah State held a 36-32 lead, but the Redbirds started the second half on a 6-0 run to pull ahead by two. That run would be the last time Illinois State would have the lead. The Aggies answered with three buckets of their own and never looked back.
USU distributed the ball well, racking up 23 assists as a team while only turning the ball over 12 times.
“When teams play us in a zone, our team has such great shooters so the defense has to play up on our shooters,” Davis said after recording a career-high eight assists. “And if I could get into the middle I could hit our guys down low or take it to the rim for a bucket.”
USU’s efficiency equaled a very good shooting night, as the Aggies shot an incredible 58 percent in the second half and 52 percent overall for the game.
“A win is a win for this team. Having a Missouri Valley Conference team here and finding a way to win the game is very positive,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “We didn’t start out very well, looked like we could get beat by 30, but we righted the ship and did a lot of good things. (Davis) stepped up and had one his best games of the year, and that was huge for us.
“Mixing our defenses caused them some problems. It didn’t cause Tyler Brown any problems but it caused the rest of them some problems. (Brown) had an unbelievable night, we couldn’t do much about him. For our basketball team and all of our circumstances our guys need to feel good, and I think that they do and we will get back to league next week.”
Utah State now returns to WAC play with a road game at league-leader Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Feb. 28. The Bulldogs are undefeated in conference play, but narrowly escaped the Aggies when they met in the Spectrum, 51-48.
“It was a great game for us to get out of conference and play to get our confidence up with a great win,” Roland said. “Now we have to get ready for LaTech this next week and get three good practices this week.”