Strong second half propels USU past UC Davis

USU junior guard Preston Medlin drives for a shot against UC Davis on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Medlin scored a season-high 23 points in Utah State's 73-63 win.

<strong>LOGAN—</strong> It was a battle of the Aggies in the second day of the 2012 World Vision Basketball Challenge, and Preston Medlin came up big for the Utah State Friday, scoring 23 points in a 73-63 win over UC Davis.

Spencer Butterfield added 14 and TeNale Roland chipped in 11 more for USU (8-1). UC Davis (3-7) was led by Ryan Sypkens’ 12 points while Corey Hawkins and Clint Bozner each had 11 for the California Aggies.

The Utah State defense struggled in the first half. UC Davis shot 55 percent from the field as they battled to a 40-39 lead over USU at the end of the first half.

“We were having a heck of a time guarding them in the first half, obviously,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They were scoring at will, and we were giving up transition baskets. In the second half, we held them to 7-for-21 and stopped the break a little bit. That was a big thing for us.”

While the Utah State defense had a hard time finding answers against the UC Davis transition offense for the first half, the Aggies from Utah were taking care of things on the offensive side as well. USU scored 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting from behind the 3-point line before the second half started.

After two games of only scoring six and seven points, Medlin caught fire Friday. His 23 points are the most he’s had this season.

“I needed to get some extra shots in this week in practice,” Medlin said. “I felt like yesterday that I didn’t shoot the ball as well and obviously in the first half I didn’t shoot the three very well. I was just trying to get in a rhythm, and I felt like in the second half that I came out and shot the ball fairly well.”

Medlin had four 3-pointers on the night but also had five other buckets, several of which were on drives to the basket.

“I was trying to be very aggressive tonight and that is something that I have been needing to do,” Medlin said. “So, I felt like I did that tonight and hopefully it is something that I can carry on to the next game and into conference play.”

UC Davis (3-7) held Utah State’s four big men to 4-of-20 shooting. Because of UC Davis’ focus on stopping the USU inside game, the Aggie guards and wings were left open on the perimeter much of the game. Overall Utah State shot 42 percent from the field but was a blistering 55 percent from 3-point range. Butterfield, Roland and Marvin Jean combined to shoot 8-of-11 from long range.

“We had a lot of guys off the bench that did a nice job. Marvin (Jean) came in, TeNale (Roland) came in and Ben (Clifford) got some rebounds,” Morrill said. “A lot of these guys did a good job, and it obviously helps when you make some 3’s. We have struggled a little bit at times from the 3-point line, and we have some pretty good shooters and that should help some confidence.”

After having turnovers plague Utah State most of the season, the Aggies took care of the ball better Friday, racking up 20 assists to only six turnovers.

“We have had some turnover trouble, and we had 20 assists and only six turnovers – that is a huge stat for us,” Morrill said. “We took a step forward, I have been criticizing our team to you guys quite a bit, and I thought that we took a step forward tonight.”

Utah State faces the Southern Illinois Salukis Saturday at 8 p.m. in the final game of the 2012 World Vision Basketball Challenge


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