<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The Utah State men’s basketball team played its first road game of the season Wednesday, more than a month after playing its first exhibition game at home. The Aggies struggled mightily in the early minutes on an unfamiliar court, and then they grew up.
Wednesday’s game was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. USU fell behind by 15 points quickly, trailing 19-4 just a few minutes into the game against the Broncos. While not boasting a resume filled with wins over powerhouse teams, Santa Clara was 5-0 coming into the game and off to its best start in more than 40 years.
The Aggies were able to weather the early storm though, right the ship, and actually take a lead before the first half was even over. Utah State also battled turnover problems, committing a season-high (and ridiculous) 25 turnovers on the night. However, strong defense and great rebounding kept USU in it.
Once again, Preston Medlin was the target for opposing defenses. After averaging 17 points as a sophomore, defenses have focused on Medlin. The Broncos were no different, as he only attempted six shots on the evening. The Aggies supporting cast stepped up though, as Jarred Shaw continued his stellar play, Marcel Davis had his best game as an Aggie, and the USU bench more than doubled the output of the Broncos’ bench with 34 points.
Overall, the Aggies finished with four players in double figures and had two players contribute nine points while one chipped in eight. As a team USU stepped up, and when he was needed, Medlin came through in the clutch with an old-fashioned three point play to tie the game (his first field goal of the night with 2:29 left in the game), and an off-balance under pressure 3-pointer to again tie the game with 2.4 seconds left to play.
In between all that, others stepped up. Spencer Butterfield was 3-for-3 from the field, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. Marvin Jean connected on his only shot. Jordan Stone shook off his free throw struggles to bury two huge attempts in overtime. Ben Clifford fouled out without scoring, and didn’t have a great statistical game, but he made some huge plays hustle plays down the stretch with hustle rebounds and the kick to Medlin on the game-tying 3-pointer.
As a team, the Aggies shot 56 percent for the game and a scorching 66.7 percent in the second half. They made 41 percent of their 3-pointers, and made 17-of-23 free throws. Most importantly, they looked adversity in the face on the road – multiple times – shook it off, and pulled out the win.
After the game, USU head coach Stew Morrill knew his team was fortunate to go on the road and get a win against a pretty talented West Coast Conference team. He also said there is no question that his team is improving, and that it’s always easier to work on more improvements after a win.
Things don’t get any easier as the Aggies stay on the road and face another WCC team in in-state rival BYU – a game that has been very heated and tightly contested for the better part of a decade – next Wednesday, Dec. 5. However, the Aggies took a big step as a team Wednesday night. It is still early in the season and there is still a lot of room for growth, but USU grew up in its overtime win against the Broncos.