<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Sometimes it’s just good to come home.
Utah State returned to Logan after a nightmare of a road trip that included two blowout losses and the aggravation of a hip injury to Spencer Butterfield. The Aggies celebrated being back in the Spectrum – and the return of Butterfield – by beating Texas State, 77-61.
“Our guys came out and played really hard, really active basketball in the first half and got ourselves a comfortable lead,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “Then we did what we needed to do to finish it up. We were active. We had a lot of deflections offensively. They had a really hard time scoring and that first half kind of set the tone of the game.”
USU never trailed in the game, as Butterfield returned to action and had arguably his best game of the year. The junior wing was just three assists away from a triple-double, while notching 10 points and 20 rebounds. Jarred Shaw led the Aggies in scoring with 15 points while Ben Clifford chipped in another 13. Texas State’s Vonn Jones led all scorers with 19 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
“Obviously it’s positive to have Spencer (Butterfield) back,” Morrill said. “I mean, the guy had 20 rebounds. That’s pretty amazing. You look at the number of good players we’ve lost and then you get down to where you lose another one like we did, it’s just too much. Having him back makes me pine for the fact that it would be nice to have a couple more back and wonder what might have been. He’s got a great nose for the basketball. His line, other than missing a few shots, was obviously impressive.”
Marcel Davis hit a 3-pointer to start the game and the Aggies never looked back as they jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead. USU didn’t stop there and extended its lead to 18 behind the great shooting of Clifford and junior Marvin Jean.
The Bobcats, meanwhile, really struggled on both ends of the floor in the first half. Texas State did not break into the double digits until a free throw by Corey Stern made the score 28-10 with 3:35 left in the half.
At the break the Aggies led 34-15. USU shot 41 percent from the floor while holding the Bobcats to a dismal 17 percent including 0-for-7 from long range. The Aggies also held a strong 34-15 rebounding advantage at the end of the first half.
“The first half we played really hard,” Clifford said. “We got a lot of deflections on defense and I think that’s really what helped us. They scored 15 in the first half. That’s what we wanted to do and we accomplished that so that was good.”
In spite of a terrible first half, Texas State came out in the second half shooting much better. However, USU also continued to play well and didn’t allow the Bobcats to get closer than 10 points the remainder of the game.
After having eight points at the half, Butterfield didn’t score again until there was only one minute left in the game. He hit two free throws to secure the double-double and lead his team to the easy victory.
“The team was just boxing out so I took advantage of it,” Butterfield said. “It was just going my way tonight. Rebounds are my pride. I don’t care about points as much. We really came out and had some energy in the defense with a lot of deflections. We just got a lot of hands on the ball. It was all really helpful. Marcel (Davis) got some good steals. We needed to bounce back and this was a statement game.”
USU will host UTSA on Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m. in their final home game of the season. The Aggies will honor their lone senior, Kyisean Reed, who has sat out most of the conference games after tearing his ACL midway through the season.
USU also got its 20th win of the season, something the Aggies have now accomplished for 14 consecutive years.
“Last year it was a struggle to get to 20 wins, it felt like,” Clifford said. “It feels good getting to 20. It would be nice to get more, but hopefully it gets us some momentum going into the WAC tournament.”