<strong>MOSCOW, Idaho—</strong> Utah State ended its four game losing streak with a decisive victory over the Idaho Vandals Thursday. USU jumped out to a 16-3 advantage and led the entire game, en route to a 77-67 win.
“I don’t think unless you are in the middle of it, with what these guys have been through with the losses and the injuries, I don’t think you really appreciate it unless you are in the middle of it,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They have kept their spirit about them and kept their attitude up and just went out and played a heck of a game tonight.”
Jarred Shaw led the Aggies with a career-high 27 points to go along with nine rebounds. Freshmab point guard Marcel Davis added 16 points as he broke out of his scoring slump, and Spencer Butterfield recorded his third straight double-double, tallying 11 points and 10 rebounds. Idaho was led by Stephen Madison and Connor Hill who each scored 14 points.
“I’m really pleased with this group right now. I’m really proud of them,” Morrill said. “It was a tough weekend last weekend at home, the first home weekend without Preston (Medlin) and Kyisean (Reed.) We battled really hard and were concerned that we’d go out on the road and have a letdown in terms of effort. We didn’t do that.
“We really did a good job of executing the game plan and settled in a little bit offensively. That’s what was really nice to see. We made a lot of shots and guys were aggressive. Under the circumstances this is a special win, a very satisfying win for me. Our guys need to really feel good about it.”
Utah State got out to a hot start with Davis scoring six of the Aggies’ first eight points. USU then proceeded to open up a double digit lead, but Idaho got right back in the game and cut the lead to two after a 15-2 run.
The two teams remained close throughout the remainder of the first half, with USU taking a 31-25 lead into the break after Marvin Jean hit a 3-pointer with six seconds left in the half.
Just one minute into the second half, Idaho’s Kyle Barone, a WAC Player of the Year candidate, picked up his third foul, sending him to the bench.
“It’s just basketball. He had kind of an off night,” Shaw said of Barone. “Fortunately I played well and we got it going.”
The Vandals would remain close, cutting the lead to two with 10:15 to play in the game, but that was as close as they would get. USU’s TeNale Roland made his presence felt for the first time in weeks, back-to-back 3-pointers to extend the Aggie lead to eight and Utah State never looked back.
“We’ve been on him hard and we need him to do more,” Morrill said of Roland. “He just kind of floats sometimes and we need him to be more aggressive on both ends of the court, more physical and more confident. We’ve got four guys for three spots so he’s got to play well for us to have a chance to win and he did tonight.”
Shaw was the real star of the day though, setting a new career-high for the second time in as many games.
“A real key for Jarred, and I keep telling him this, is can you affect the game when you’re not just scoring,” Morrill said. “When you are having a tough shooting night, can you still rebound? Can you still defend? Can you still pass out of the post? That’s the real test. When he gets rolling like this, we’re going to go to him a lot and he responded.”
Utah State shot nearly 60 percent from the field hitting 28-of-47 attempts, after struggling mightily in a 27 percent effort last week. The Aggies also scored from behind the arc, shooting 46 percent from 3-point land.
“Jarred Shaw was spectacular offensively, obviously. You have to have some guys have some big nights,” Morrill said. “Spencer did his thing again. I was really pleased with the two big shots TeNale made. Everybody just did a real solid job. We have concerns – obviously some depth issues and playing some guys out of position – but we were able to get it done.”
The Aggies return to action again Saturday against Seattle University. USU hopes to get the road trip sweep after beating both Idaho and Seattle at home earlier in the season. The Aggies suffered a big loss in Seattle at the hands of the Redhawks last season.
“It was a tough game,” Morrill said of the Seattle game. “They are so athletic and they are the best offensive rebounding team in the league most nights. They are really hard to keep off the boards.”
Similar to Thursday’s game against the Vandals, Saturday’s game at Seattle will also tipoff at 8 p.m. local time.