<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Riding career-high performances from two of its players, the Utah State men’s basketball pulled away from UTSA in the second half for an easy 71-51 win in the Aggies’ regular season finale.
Redshirt sophomore Ben Clifford rode a hot start en route to a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds and three blocks as he led all scorers. Backup guard TeNale Roland also contributed a career-high in points, as he caught fire in the second half and tallied all 14 of his points during the final 20 minutes.
“Post touches are big in the two-three zone, especially in the high-post, it just rips it apart. That is where the holes were today and that was where I was open,” Clifford said. “I got a few baseline shots, a couple high-post shots and it is just hard to guard when you get the ball up high in the post against a two-three zone.”
Even though the Aggies won handily, early on it didn’t appear that would be the case. Both teams struggled to find offense, and besides Clifford, junior guard Spencer Butterfield was the only other Aggie to find his shot in the first half as he went 4-for-4 from the field for 12 points in the opening stanza.
At the half, Clifford and Butterfield combined for 23 of Utah State’s 25 points as the Aggies held a 25-17 lead over the Roadrunners.
“We really struggled with shooting the ball in the first half, we had some pretty good looks and we just didn’t make them. We had a bunch of guys O-fer at halftime,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said.
The Aggies started the second half slowly as well, but Clifford stayed hot. After UTSA pulled to within five at 25-20, the sophomore converted an old-fashioned three-point play and then had a nice layup in transition off of a pass by Marcel Davis that put USU up 30-20.
Utah State maintained its lead well into the second half, but the Roadrunners were able to close the gap to within six at 46-40, with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Once again though, the Aggies had the answer as both Roland and Clifford converted old-fashioned three-point plays to push the USU lead back into double digits.
“In the second half we kind of settled in and played better against their zone and their man-to-man. Ben (Clifford) has a really big night and that is nice to see. I thought TeNale (Roland) played very well, we had a number of guys do some good things out there,” Morrill said.
From that point, the Aggies continued to pull away for the easy victory. Junior center Jarred Shaw (11 points, 9 rebounds) and Butterfield (14 points) also joined Clifford and Roland in double figures, while junior Marvin Jean shook off a rough shooting night to record 10 rebounds. Seldom used sophomore center Matt Lopez also had his best showing since his first appearance of the season as he tied a career-high with eight points in only six minutes of action.
As has been the case for the majority of the season, the Aggies dominated the on the boards, outrebounding the Roadrunners, 42-26. Even more impressive for Utah State was the assist to turnover ratio, as the Aggies finished with 22 assists to only 10 turnovers.
Prior to the game, USU honored its lone senior Kyisean Reed who tore his ACL midway through the season. The Aggies will now turn their attention to the Western Athletic Conference Tournament in Las Vegas. Utah State is the No. 5 seed, and will take on UT Arlington Thursday at 9:30 p.m. Mountain Time.
This was a great week for us. It gives us a lot of momentum going into the conference tournament, which we needed,” Roland said. “We’ll pick it up next week and be ready.”