Aggies advance to championship game, beat LaTech 85-55

The Utah State Aggies learned their lessons from yesterday afternoon’s contest against Boise State in being able to beat a full court press, jumping out to an early lead over Louisiana Tech and never relinquishing it. USU put away the Bulldogs in the WAC Men’s Basketball semifinal 85-55 in front of a large Aggie contingency at the Lawlor Events Center. The Aggies were lead by Jared Quayle’s sharpshooting from the outside (leading the team with 16 points) and Brady Jardine’s inspired play on the inside (the Aggie’s second leading scorer with 13). La Tech suffered greatly by not having starter Magnum Rolle who turned his ankle early in the first half and never returned. “Louisiana Tech was not themselves tonight,” Aggie Coach Stew Morrill said after the game. “They were not anything to full strength.” Not only were the Bulldogs without Rolle for most of the night, their other senior leader Kyle Gibson was also playing on a sore ankle. “That was not the La Tech we have seen all year long,” Morrill said. “That said, our guys did a nice job taking care of business.” Louisiana Tech head coach Kerry Rupp complimented the Aggies for their season and how they have represented the WAC. “Hat’s off to Utah State,” Rupp said after the game. “They played great. They showed they’re a very, very good team.” Rupp also said the Aggies should be shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament. “I’m a big fan of Utah State. They’ve got a good chance of winning (Saturday), but they should be in regardless.” La Tech started the game using a similar press as they have used against the Aggies all year, only tonight the Aggies did a much better job of clearing the ball past half-court. USU again used Tai Wesley as a safety valve to break the press and the team overall looked more confident facing the pressure. The Aggies got their first double-digit lead behind a Tyler Newbold three pointer, leading 15-6, and eventually stretched that lead to 20 with 3:37 left in the first half, leading 38-18. The nearly 20 point lead at the half turned into a more than 30 point lead with 11:37 left in the second. Yesterday it was Brian Green coming off the bench with a lot of energy for the Aggies. Friday night it was Brady Jardine. The sophomore from Twin Falls, Idaho played with a lot of energy and gave both Nate Bendall and Tai Wesley quality time to rest on the bench. “He did a good job,” Morrill said of Jardine. “He’s active. What I’m most pleased about is how he’s improved.” Morrill specifically pointed to Jardine’s outside shot, defense and overall understanding of the schemes. “My team got me the ball in easy to score places,” Jardine said after the game. “Guys got me wide open and made it easy for me.” The Aggies also had good contributions from back-up point guard Jaxon Myaer, scoring nine points and playing 17 quality minutes. “He did a good job,” Morrill said of Myaer’s play. Utah State has scored at least 80 points in each of its last three games, which is a season high, and have defeated their opponents by more than 20 points a game in that same stretch. They shot over 65% in the first half and ended the game shooting 59%. Morrill attributed the scoring to unselfish play. “That’s the strength of our team,” Morrill said. The Aggies had 22 team assists to only 10 turnovers. Jared Quayle shot 4-6 from three point range and lead the team with 16 points. “I try to be aggressive and get going,” Quayle said of his play Friday night. “It was too bad their player got hurt but it was definitely a plus for our team. He’s a great player.” Jardine definitely got the attention of the Bulldog Band. When he stepped up to the free throw line they started chanting “Hannibal Lecter” in reference to the mask he wears while playing. “I had to laugh when I heard that,” Jardine said. “My wife has a sign that says ‘I go home with Hannibal Lecter.’ So I was trying not to laugh when I went to the line.” When asked which team he would rather face for the championship, Morrill said, “whoever wins.” He did say that he’s pleased the tournament is moving to a neutral site next year. “Four of the five years we’ve been in the WAC we’ve played the championship game on the opponents’ home floor.” Morrill was also pleased with the strong contingency of Aggie fans in attendance. “They’re the best. We lead the league in attendance. We lead the league in crazies. We lead the league in fans that travel.” He expected even more fans would be traveling Saturday to Reno to watch the Aggies in the championship game. With the large lead late in the second half, Morrill was allowed to sit his starters and let his bench get some quality minutes in the game. USU now prepares for New Mexico State who beat Nevada 80-79 on the Wolfpack’s home court in a high-energy, closely fought contest.

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