Strong second half leads to big Aggie win over UNLV

LOGAN – For the Utah State basketball team, what happened in Vegas, stayed in Vegas. Last month the Aggies lost an overtime heartbreaker at UNLV, but it was a completely different story Tuesday night in Logan. A strong second half helped USU to an 83-65 win over the Rebels.

“The one in Vegas was really tough on us and it’s nice to get this one,” USU Head Coach Stew Morrill said. “I wasn’t comfortable until the clock was under a minute. That’s just the nature of this stuff, but good win for us.”

The first half was neck and neck. Neither team had led by more than five points until UNLV got hot and sunk five-straight shot attempts and took a 33-25 lead with 4:37 remaining in the half. Chris Smith and Jalen Moore stopped the UNLV momentum with back to back 3-pointers. USU went into the break trailing 38-35.

“The first half I like to think we were playing really good offense and we were behind at half because we just couldn’t get any good stops,” Morrill said. “They made a lot of shots but I didn’t think we were near active enough defensively.”

The Aggies came out firing and started the second half with a 9-0 run. Smith scored the first two off a layup and then scored three more when a pass from Julion Pearre found him wide open outside the arc. UNLV took a timeout, but it didn’t slow USU. Moore hit a jumper after the timeout and David Collette added two more points with a dunk. Moore said the quick second-half start “fueled the win.”

“We came out ready to play in the second half,” Moore said. “We were giving them too many easy buckets. That kind of stuff. We came out, played better defense.”

The Aggies were able to take an 11-point lead soon after, but UNLV went on a run of their own to bring the score within two midway through the second half. Collette then scored two baskets in a row to spark a 17-2 run the Rebels were unable to recover from.

Smith led the Aggies in scoring with 20 points. Collette and Darius Perkins each had 17. As a team USU shot 54.4 percent.

“The ball was going in the hoop,” Collette said. “We shot like we always do. We’re a good offensive team. We shoot the ball and that’s what we did.”

The Aggies are now on a five-game win streak and have a 17-10 overall record. The 10-5 conference record puts the team in a tie for fourth place in the Mountain West. Moore said he thinks everything is coming together.

“We’re playing more as a team,” he said. “Everybody is making their shots. We are playing good basketball. We’re not turning it over. We are rebounding a lot better than we have been.”

The Aggies will travel to Colorado Springs Saturday to take on Air Force.

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