We just kept working hard and kept fighting. We knew it was going to be a battle, they are a good team. —Guard Preston Medlin
With the students on Spring Break, a sparse crowd of 2,141 was on hand to see the game. Utah State will host a second-round game on Saturday at 7 p.m. The opponent has yet to be determined, but possibilities include west-coast teams like Weber State, Idaho and Loyola Marymount, who all won their first-round games.
The Aggies had to hold on for dear life after coughing up a 12-point halftime advantage when the Roadrunners took their first lead of the game with 10:23 remaining. Utah State pushed back ahead with a six-point run to take the game back and never trailed again.
"It got real interesting down the stretch in the second half," coach Stew Morrill said. "We had a chance. We missed three 3-pointers to go up 17 and maybe have a chance to put the game away. To their credit, they just kept pressing and kept coming at us and we had some not real smart turnovers, but we got out of there with a win."
Ball control was an issue all night against the aggressive Roadrunners defense. Overall, USU finished with 17 turnovers including six from point guard Brockeith Pane and another three from Danny Berger mostly coming against the pressure defense.
Preston Medlin led a balanced Utah State offense with 24 points. Kyisean Reed had 16, Morgan Grim and Pane both finished with 15 as the starters scored 74 of the Aggies 75 points.
"We just kept working hard and kept fighting. We knew it was going to be a battle, they are a good team," Medlin said.
It was a physical contest between the two teams, combining to rack up a total of 47 fouls. Reed finished the game with a bloody lip and a couple of bandages covering some scrapes, but chalked it up to the physical nature of postseason basketball.
"Everyone was playing hard. You get hit with a couple elbows every now and then. I hit the floor a couple of times, it just happens." Reed said. "The air gets a little thicker, everyone wants to keep playing."
Reed had three drunks to add to his team-leading 32 slams. Grim and Reed combined to go 11-of-11 from the floor and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line to give the Aggies a steady presence in the post.
While it may not be the most prestigious tournament, the Aggies are still alive and are happy to be hosting another game on Saturday night.
"Obviously being at home is great because you don't have travel, which is awesome," Medlin said. "Even though there might not be as many fans (with students away on spring break) we still have some fans which is great."
Medlin added that the students will be back from the break starting next week so another win could mean a packed house for a possible third-round game in the Spectrum, which would add a little motivation to Saturday night.