Utah State basketball: Aggies pull out ugly win in home opener against Idaho State

Published: Saturday, Nov. 10 2012 10:42 p.m. MST

Utah State's Spencer Butterfield (21) steals the ball from Idaho State's Nnamdi Ezenwa during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, John Zsiray)

John Zsiray, AP

LOGAN- It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.

The Aggies will not receive a whole lot of style points, but they did get their 2012-2013 basketball season off on the right foot by grinding out a 56-48 victory over Idaho State in the Spectrum on Saturday night.

“Idaho State did exactly what you need to do on the road… They made the game ugly. It was an ugly basketball game,” head coach Stew Morrill said. “We helped to make it ugly, but their zone was very good.”

In a season opener it is not uncommon to see jitters from the new players and rust from the team as play hits full speed for the first time. Even with some sloppiness expected, it was uglier than anticipated thanks to some aggressive defense from the visiting Bengals.

“This was definitely kind of a cobweb game. A chance to work out some of the kinks,” junior guard Spencer Butterfield said.

Most of the stats look good for the Aggies. Utah State shot 46.8 percent from the field and outrebounded Idaho State by 13.

The big negative however was turnovers. The Aggies coughed up the ball 17 times, stealing the flow from the offense and keeping the Bengals in the game late into the second half.

“There were a lot of mental errors… (Idaho State) jumped in passing lanes and they did a good job, but we also just threw it to them a few times. ‘Here you can have it.’ We did some of that,” Morrill said. “In a 56-point game, 17 turnovers is not very good.”

After USU opened up a 30-23 lead at the half, Idaho State chipped away to draw to a 37-37 tie with 9:47 remaining. That’s when Butterfield provided the spark to put the Aggies back in front. The junior college transfer scored his first points, knocking down three 3-point baskets in a 13-3 run for USU that put the Aggies out in front for good.

“That kid (Butterfield) made the threes and that was the difference,” Idaho State coach Bill Evans said.

Butterfield finished with nine points, four rebounds and two steals in his Aggie debut. Junior guard Preston Medlin led a balanced Utah State effort with 14 points. Nine of the 10 USU players who saw action scored.

While the Aggies were happy with the victory, nobody was happy with how thy won. The turnovers, sloppy play and inability to break the Idaho State zone were all areas marked for improvement before their next game.

“Hopefully, we can learn from it,” Morrill said. “As I told our guys, it’s nice when you can still get a win when you didn’t play well.”

Utah State continues a four-game home stand to start the regular season with a visit from recent rival Saint Mary’s on Thursday night. The game is the second leg of an ESPN Bracketbuster matchup from 2011 that saw the Aggies beat the top-25 ranked Gaels 75-65 on the road.

Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.

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