Utah State’s 37 game home winning streak came to a close at the hands of the Saint Mary’s Gaels on Saturday night, as the Aggies dropped a close one by a score of 68-63.”We got beat by a really good team,” USU coach Stew Morrill said after the game. “… They made more plays when the game was on the line… Losing sucks. It just does. It always has.”In a back-and-forth game that included seven lead changes and nine ties, Utah State put themselves in a situation to win late in the game. Saint Mary’s used some key rebounds to pull away, and Utah State was not able to catch up after key post players Tai Wesley and Nate Bendall fouled out near the end of the game. “Tai had a couple of dumb fouls, and we had a situation where Nate’s up to his fanny in alligators trying to guard (Omar) Samhan,” Morrill said. “Tai’s just got to get smarter. He just can’t make so many dumb fouls.””It seems like I just get so jacked, and so hyped that I do stupid stuff,” Wesley said. “… My team needs me on the floor, and I only played twenty three minutes, which is not enough. I gotta be smarter. I gotta be more mature with what I do.”After going up by a score of 55-52 on a three pointer by Jared Quayle, the Aggies hit a dry spell offensively. They went without a basket for the next four minutes, allowing the Gaels to take a 59-55 lead. After the two teams traded baskets, Nate Bendall picked up his fifth personal foul trying to defend a breakaway layup.One minute later, Wesley joined Bendall on the bench after being called for a blocking foul. These late fouls were especially crucial, as they forced Coach Stew Morrill to go to his bench to attempt to defend Saint Mary’s star big man Omar Samhan.”We need everybody off of the bench to play better,” Morrill said. “We have got to get more done off of the bench, there is no question.”Samhan was dominant down low, as he scored 22 points to go along with an impressive 17 rebounds. The 6’11” center was the focal point of the Gaels’ offense for the duration of the game, as he gave the Aggies fits defensively in their attempts to stop him.”Oh, boy, is he (Samhan) skilled and is he big,” Morrill said. “… We tried to mix up what we did to him, but if they got a guy in the middle like that, that sure looks like an NBA guy to me, then it sure makes it hard.””Samhan is a load on the block. They’re a good team. We didn’t lose to a bad team,” said Wesley.Offensively, the Aggies had four players reach double figures. Ball handlers Pooh Williams and Jared Quayle had 15 and 13 points respectively, nine each in the second half. Wesley and Bendall had 12 and 11 points a piece underneath the basket. Quayle also grabbed a team high nine rebounds.Saturday night’s game was not just about basketball, however. Utah State honored Aggie football legend Merlin Olsen at halftime. Olsen and his family received a lengthy standing ovation at mid court, as it was announced that the football field will now be known as Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. The former Aggie defensive lineman is a member of the college and NFL halls of fame, and is ranked at no. 25 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The local legend is also well known for his career as a football analyst, and his many humanitarian contributions.Utah State will now have a full week of practice to make corrections before Utah Valley University visits the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on December 12th at 7 p.m..”Me and the other veterans on the team, we are going to get together,” Wesley said after being asked about leading the team. “We gotta practice better, we gotta practice harder, and we gotta practice longer.”
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