LOGAN — Behind a smothering defense, some ice-cold shooting from its opponent and a second-half offensive outburst from Jared Quayle, Utah State stormed past BYU for a 71-61 win in front a frenzied crowd Wednesday night at the Spectrum to knock the Cougars from the ranks of the unbeaten.
And in the process, Aggie coach Stew Morrill reaffirmed his love for the loud crowd his team has grown accustomed to.
"The crowd is crazy," Morrill said. "It is as good as it gets in college basketball. We love this kind of atmosphere."
Utah State used a straight-up, man-to-man defense to stifle the Cougars over the final 20 minutes of the game and turn a three-point BYU lead into a going-away victory in front of a boisterous sellout crowd.
BYU's top scorers, Jimmer Fredette and Jonathon Tavernari, combined to shoot just 6-of-26 from the floor as the Aggies (4-2) kept the pressure on them and forced a bundle of quick, rushed shots that frequently missed their mark.
"We guarded pretty dang hard the whole game," Morrill said. "And in the second half, we really hunkered down and played some good defense."
The Cougars (5-1) made only 30 percent of their second-half shots and finished the game with an uninspiring 38.9 percent average. Fredette scored 19 points on 5-of-16 shooting, but Tavernari was largely ineffective, scoring only four points and missing 10 of his 11 shots.
Utah State's Jared Quayle, himself mired in a shooting slump, emerged in the second half to lead the Aggies with 22 points.
"My defense usually gets me going," Quayle said. "We got some key stops and I felt like that got our offense going. When I went coast to coast (after a rebound for a layup), that was a good feeling. I felt like I had a lot more energy."
And it carried over to the rest of the team.
BYU was the squad showing the impressive defense in the first half, limiting an adrenaline-packed Aggie team to 38 percent shooting and taking a 35-32 lead at the break and holding an 18-17 rebounding edge.
Quayle suffered through a miserable first half, hitting just 1-of-5 shots and picking up three personal fouls trying to guard the outside shooters of BYU.
Thanks to a flurry of missed shots in the paint, the Aggies shot just 38.7 percent in the first 20 minutes. But thanks to decent ball control — just three turnovers to go with 10 assists — the Aggies found themselves lucky to be trailing just 35-32 at the break.
The Cougars led by as many as eight points in the first half thanks to 5-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. Fredette paced BYU with nine points at the half while Jackson Emery added eight.
Emery's contributions came as a bonus in many ways. After hurting his foot in practice Monday, the senior from Lone Peak ran into an inadvertant Tai Wesley elbow while chasing his man around USU's offense and crumbled to the ground.
After wobbling to the bench for attention from the trainer, Emery sported a noticeably swollen cheek for the rest of the game.
The second half was all Aggies.
After Quayle's coast-to-coast drive for a layup with 18:01 to play gave the Aggies a 38-37 lead, the crowd was deafening and Utah State had all of the momentum.
"I thought they did a really good job on the boards," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "They really hurt us with their inside players scoring the ball, and they outrebounded us. So basically, they just beat us."
The Aggies, with Wesley and Nate Bendall leading the way, did indeed control the glass down the stretch and ended with a 37-32 rebounding edge — making it 6-for-6 in games USU has won the rebounding battle this season.
Bendall finished with a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double while Wesley added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Most importantly, according to Morrill, was a solid evening of ball control. Utah State had just nine turnovers and the Cougars had only five points off those.
Without being able to get its transition game going, BYU was held well below its season average of 86.8 points. The 61 points was the lowest point total of the season for the Cougars, beating the 70 points scored in a 70-60 season-opening win over Bradley.
"We really never got into any offensive rhythm in the second half and I really thought that hurt our defense," Rose said, "because we were slow coming off screens, and it kind of broke our spirit for a little while and we were never able to recover from it."
The Cougar dry spell, which included a stretch of 5:52 without a basket late in the second half, allowed the Aggies, who host St. Mary's on Saturday, to push their lead to as many as 15 points when Quayle hit a pair of free throws with 55 seconds to play.
"It really helps when you only turn it over nine times," Morrill, who noted BYU hurt the Aggies with plenty of transition points off turnovers at EnergySolutions Arena when the two teams met last year. "We did a much better job of taking care of the ball and that limited what they were able to do to us that way."
The win is Utah State's 37th in a row in the Spectrum and gives the Aggies a 21-1 mark in the building against in-state foes with Morrill as the coach.179 comments on this story
It also gave the Aggies a bit of satisfaction in beating a team that had not been to the Spectrum since 2005.
"We might not be a rival for them," Morrill said after the dust settled, "but they're a rival for us."