LOGAN – The Utah State basketball team outscored NAIA Life Pacific by 29 points in the second half to coast to the 96-62 win Saturday night in the Spectrum. The Aggies shot 60 percent from field and made 13 3-pointers during the game – both marks tied season-highs.
But it didn’t start as a runaway game for the Aggies. The visiting Warriors led for more than four minutes and never let USU get more than an eight-point first-half lead.
“I’m happy we responded in the second half,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “I thought we played with some energy, some pop, some togetherness that we needed in the second half.”
It also helped that USU recorded a season-high 23 assists.
“That’s always great to see when you’re a coach,” Duryea said. “I’d still like to cut down a couple of those turnovers. We were loose with the ball.”
Junior Aggie forward Dwayne Brown Jr. led all scorers with a season-high 24 points.
“Sometimes I make the game harder than I should,” he said. “I felt comfortable today. My confidence was there.”
It was the second game in a row two different Aggies scored at least 20 points. Sophomore guard Koby McEwen bounced back from his scoreless game against Utah to score 20 points, grab five boards and get five assists.
After the game against Utah, Duryea called McEwen’s performance “awful,” but said he was proud of the way McEwen played Saturday night, adding that he was playing while sick.
“He didn’t make any issue of (his illness),” Duryea said. “He didn’t say anything to me, but he was battling that a little bit.”
Three other Aggies scored in double figures. Sam Merrill scored 14, Julion Pearre added 12 and Quinn Taylor got 10.
Taylor and Brown combined to score the first 14 Aggie points, but Life Pacific was able to keep pace with four early 3-pointers.
“(Brown) was on the attack,” Duryea said. “He was attacking the rim and he and Quinn Taylor both in the first half did a good job around the basket.”
Life Pacific led 16-14 seven minutes into the game, but USU took the lead with a Merrill 3-pointer, which started a 7-0 run. The lead was stretched to eight later in the half, but thanks to five additional first-half 3s from the Warriors, USU led just 40-35 at the break.
“The defensive intensity just wasn’t there,” Duryea said.
Brown said he felt the team came out “cocky,” which contributed to USU’s slow start.
“We didn’t do what we prepped,” he said. “We didn’t do what we planned.”
After letting Life Pacific make 47.4 percent of its 3-pointers in the first half, the Aggies pulled away in the second while limiting the Warriors to just 18.8 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, USU made nine second-half treys – four of them from McEwen.
The win put USU back at .500 with a 6-6 overall record. It came after last Saturday’s loss to Utah in Salt Lake City. The Aggies have since had six days off.
“It was good to have a couple days to not only rest, but to have a couple of days to focus on getting better,” Merrill said.
In addition to Brock Miller, who has been out for several weeks with an injury, Alex Dargenton and Klay Stall both sat out with injuries of their own. Duryea said Dargenton could be out several weeks with a “bad ankle sprain” and that Stall, who is having issues with his back, will hopefully be back before Wednesday’s game.
“Hopefully at some point somebody will stop putting a pin in the voodoo doll,” Duryea said, “because we are running out of bodies in a hurry.”
Wednesday’s home game will be against Youngstown State and will be the final non-conference game of the regular season.