Utah State vs San Jose State

27 Feb 2016

Logan, UT. The Utah State men’s basketball team met San Jose State for its penultimate home game. The Aggies came into the night off of a loss at Nevada on Wednesday night. With a 13-13 record overall, including a lowly 5-10 record in conference, the Aggies came into the game with the 9th seed in the Mountain West. The were in desperate need of a victory over the Spartans who were 8-19 with 11th in the Mountain West and a 3-12 record. The Aggies beat the Spartans in their previous meeting in San Jose 80-71.

The game began with Junior forward Jalen Moore elevating to win the tip. The Aggies scored on their first two possessions with a jumper by red-shirt freshman Quinn Taylor and a 3-pointer by senior guard Chris Smith, jumping out to the quick 5 point lead. The Aggies started the game with great defensive pressure, establishing their dominance early on. Taylor found himself in foul trouble early, picking up his second foul with over 16 minutes left in the first half.

Both offenses were back and forth and at 12:05 mark, the score was deadlocked at 14-14 before free throws by Moore gave the advantage back to USU 16-14. Junior guard Shane Rector added 2 free-throws of his own. With 9:11 left in the first half, a hustle play by Taylor led to sophomore guard Julion Pearre stepping into a 3 point shot, giving the Aggies the 27-23 lead. The next trip down the floor resulted in a beautiful up and under layup by Smith, giving him his 10th point of the first half.

The teams continued to battle back and forth but the Aggies began to pull away in the last 5 minutes and entered halftime holding a 7-point lead with a score of 43-36. The Aggies were led in scoring by Smith and Moore with 12 and 11 points respectively. The Aggies shot 48% from the field, while giving up 44% from the Spartans, and a blistering 54.5% from the 3-point line, while allowing the Spartans to post the same mark. USU outrebounded SJSU 20-15 and were surprisingly led in rebounding by Rector, who had 5. Rector also had 2 steals in that first half but also gave up a critical turnover down the stretch when he missed on an attempt to pass out of a shot.

The Aggies came out of the break with a 6-2 run in the first 4 minutes. A big 3-pointer by Pearre and a put back dunk by junior forward Lew Evans extended the run and gave the Aggies a 20 point lead with just under thirteen and a half minutes left 58-38. The Spartans managed to end the 15-2 run with a free throw. Smith responded by finishing a tough layup and drawing the foul. Taylor followed that up with a wide open dunk.

With 9:30 left, senior guard Darius Perkins pulled up for a 3-point shot and knocked down his fourth make from deep of the game to put the Aggies up 73-45. Evans knocked down two free-throws to extend the lead to 30 points. After getting the big lead, the Aggies played complacent and sloppy against a Spartan press, giving up a series of turnovers. This narrowed the gap but the Spartans never got within striking distance, as the closest they got was 15 points. The Aggies pulled out the win with a final score of 88-70 in a game that should not have ended that close.

Smith led all scorers with 20 and teammate Taylor finished with 16. Taylor also recorded 10 rebounds to get his first double-double of his career in just 23 minutes of action. The Aggies finished with a rebound advantage of 42-31. The 43 points in the first half marks the eighth time that USU has scored 40 points in the first half. They have won all 8 of those games. The Aggies also shot a season high 39 free-throws but were only able to make 24, finishing with a lowly 61% on the night.

The 13 second-half turnovers and the 14 points off of those turnovers are areas of concern moving forward. The 17 turnovers overall is tied for the second highest total this year. After having a 33-9 run in the first eleven and a half minutes, the Aggies stumbled to the finish, giving up a 27-10 run to the Spartans. Said Taylor of the big run, “I think we just need to play Aggie Basketball. We’ve seen it many times this year, when we are playing hard, moving the ball, playing together, we’re really, really good…. What really helped, I feel like, was our defense. Our defensive pressure…. Try to keep that energy up.

Coach Tim Duryea said of the game, “I thought we played a pretty solid 30-32 minutes. I was really pleased with how we shared the ball… we really passed it and drove it well, created a lot of wide open shots for each other, and then knocked them down at a high percentage.”

Of the bad run, he said, “…[in] the last 7 minutes, we kind of let the foot of the gas mentally, and when you do that, you make some careless mistakes.” He also mentioned that he thought it was good to get some guys on the bench some more experience.

USU looked dominant for most of the second half and showed how good they can be. Unfortunately, they also showed their bad side. In order to succeed, this team needs to learn to finish off lesser opponents. We’ll see how they respond as they take on the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Saturday at 7 pm. You can watch the game on ROOT Sports TV.