Utah State dispatches NAIA Saint Katherine in 94-49 win

LOGAN – In an exhibition match-up, Utah State faced little resistance en route to a 94-49 win over Saint Katherine on Tuesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

“I thought our guys’ mentality was really good all night long. I thought we had great senior leadership,” head coach Craig Smith said. “When your senior leadership is really good, it’s amazing how things fall into place. I thought they really set the tone.”

From the opening tip, USU proved beyond doubt the talent discrepancy between the two sides, jumping out to a 15-0 lead in less than five minutes of game time. The Aggies followed their initial outburst with separate runs of 7-0 and 11-0, opening up a 49-25 margin by halftime.

The second half started much like the first, with USU immediately embarking on a 10-0 run in the first three-and-a-half minutes. With the outcome all but decide, the Aggies largely coasted from there. Even so, Utah State still enjoyed a comfortable advantage in most facets of the game, increasing their lead on the boards to 63-28 by game’s end. On the game, USU also recorded 20 assists, seven steals and four blocks.

“I thought it was a good test for us, especially for us to get into a good rhythm,” senior Diogo Brito said. “We responded well. We played aggressive. I wanted the team to bring the energy and I think we did, especially starting the second half. Coach talked at halftime, ‘those first five minutes, let’s put it away.’ I thought the team responded and that just carried off through the rest of the game.”

Brito finished with 15 points, adding seven rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Justin Bean again filled his stat sheet, scoring 12 points alongside 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. Sophomore Brock Miller led the Aggies in scoring with 22 points while shooting 6-19 from 3-point territory. Junior Alphonso Anderson also reached double figures, scoring 11 points with nine rebounds and three assists. Senior Abel Porter finished with eight points and three assists.

“Especially when we play these games, guys tend to be lackadaisical like things are going to come easy and that’s not true,” Brito said. “We have to have the mentality as if we’re playing BYU or whoever, whether it’s a conference game, and whether it’s a big game or not. We’ve got to build good habits… We’ve got to make sure we’re focused on what we’re doing because those habits will eventually help us in the future.”

Alongside the usual suspects, USU’s group of freshmen and newcomers also shined during the game. Senior JC transfer Roche Grootfaam recorded six points and four rebounds. Junior Klay Stall, who has battled injuries throughout his career at Utah State, tallied two points and four rebounds on the night. Freshman Sean Bairstow ended with eight points, five assists and three rebounds. Freshman Trevon Dorious recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“After our last game, coach Smith came up to me like, ‘hey, I’m sorry, I should’ve played you more.’ That little comment, that meant the world to me,” Dorius said. “It means he appreciates me and he knows how hard I’ve been working, so that’s one thing I love about coach Smith. Coming into this game, when I was told I was going to play more, I was like, ‘I’m gonna prove him right.’ As a thank-you for playing me, I’m going to do everything I can to make my time effective and efficient.”

Utah State was without their two stars in senior Sam Merrill and sophomore Neemias Queta. Merrill was held out due to illness while Queta was held out for precautionary reasons following his season debut on Saturday night.

The Aggies will now have several days to prepare for in-state rival BYU in the Beehive Classic on Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. USU has lost seven straight games versus the Cougars, last winning 69-62 on November 11, 2011 in Logan.

“They have it all,” coach Smith said of BYU. “They shoot it. They score inside. (Yoeli) Childs has the flexibility to stretch you. They’re very good defensively. They’re tough-minded. They’re good. They’re really, really good… When I watch them, there’s not a lot of holes there on either end of the floor. We’re going to have to play very well to have a chance to win that game.”

Tip-off is currently scheduled for Saturday at 6:00 pm MST.

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