<strong>SEATTLE—</strong> Stew Morrill is at it again.
After losing two key players and struggling in four consecutive losses, the Utah State men’s basketball team has found another level. The team has rallied around each other, and pulled off a surprising road sweep, culminating Saturday with a dominating 68-46 win at Seattle.
Once again, Jarred Shaw and Spencer Butterfield were at the center of the Aggies success. However, Saturday’s game may have been USU’s most balanced since losing Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin at New Mexico State.
Freshman guard Marcel Davis had another solid game, reaching double digits for the second consecutive time, and more importantly, committing no turnovers. Davis was joined in double figures by fellow guard TeNale Roland who scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
Unlike Thursday night’s game at Idaho where the Aggies jumped out to an 18-3 lead, Saturday’s game against the Redhawks was a back-and-forth affair in the beginning. Eventually, USU opened up a little breathing room, forcing Seattle to call a timeout with 7:44 remaining in the first half after Ben Clifford converted an offensive rebound and putback to put the Aggies up 20-13.
A couple of 3-pointers by Davis and Marvin Jean helped Utah State slowly stretch its lead, but the margin wouldn’t reach double digits until Butterfield hit a runner with seven seconds left in the half to put USU up 30-19. A block by Jean at the buzzer on the other end, ensured the Aggies would carry that 11-point margin to the break.
Though Jean only finished with five points on 1-of-5 shooting, he was very active – especially in the first half. In the first 20 minutes of action, USU had five steals, with Jean recording four of them. He finished the game with four steals, four rebounds, four assists, and a block in 31 minutes of action.
Coming off back-to-back 20-plus point games, Shaw had a relatively quiet first half as he dealt with a couple of fouls. The junior quickly established himself in the second half as he scored four straight points to start the half. He continued to be a force the rest of the way, finishing with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds.
Butterfield found his shooting touch in the second half, after his slow start as well. For the fourth consecutive game, the 6-foot 3-inch guard recorded a double-double as he tallied 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Butterfield also had an answer every time the Redhawks tried to build some momentum.
After building a 15-point lead early in the second half, Utah State let Seattle back in the game with some turnovers and easy baskets. However, after the Redhawks closed the gap to 10, 36-26, Butterfield drilled a 3-pointer to halt the run. USU then built an 18-point lead, only to watch the Redhawks build some momentum with a little run and a transition 3-pointer that cut the Aggie lead to 13 with 10 minutes remaining. Once again, Butterfield had the answer as he drilled his third shot of the half from beyond the arc.
The Redhawks would get no closer the rest of the way as Shaw went to work inside and the Aggies hit their free throws down the stretch. USU led by as many as 24, before finishing off the game with the 22-point margin.
One break for the Aggies, was not having to deal with redshirt freshman Deshaun Sunderhaus in the post. In the teams’ earlier meeting this season, Sunderhaus was a force all game as he finished with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting and also had double digit rebounds. He rolled his ankle in Thursday’s game against San Jose State, and did not play Saturday.
Though not having Sunderhaus certainly hurt Seattle inside, the most impressive stat of the game may have been USU’s dominance on the boards. After being outrebounded by Redhawks by three in the Spectrum, the Aggies finished Saturday’s game with an astounding 44-25 rebounding edge. Clifford pulled down 10 of those rebounds, giving him a career high.
With the win, Utah State improves to 16-5 on the season and 7-4 in WAC play. The Aggies will only have one game next week as they travel on the road to San Jose State to face the Spartans. That game is scheduled for 8 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 8.