It became a free throw shooting game, and we missed and they made. That was the difference in the game. —Weber State coach Randy Rahe
LOGAN — Sometimes the game of basketball can be boiled down to its most basic forms. In the case of Utah State and Weber State on Saturday night the difference was simple: free throws.
Utah State made its freebies down the stretch, hitting 19 of its final 22, while Weber State struggled over the same time period, hitting only 9 of 18 from the stripe.
Those 10 free throws proved to be the difference in the score, as the Aggies (3-1) clawed their way to a 65-55 victory over the Wildcats (1-2) in front of 8,415 fans in the Spectrum.
“We put them on the free-throw line is what happened,” Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said. “It became a free-throw shooting game, and we missed and they made. That was the difference in the game.”
The game had everything you’d expect from two evenly matched regional rivals with similar styles. The game was tied 16 times and the lead changed hands another 24 times as the two squads battled back and forth. Until Utah State broke out for good in the final two minutes, neither team ever led by more than five.
“That’s about what we expected. Those are the kind of games we generally have with Weber,” Utah State head coach Stew Morrill said. “It was a knockdown, drag-out. It was tough to score. We are just glad we hung in there and found a way to grind one out.”
Both teams wore a path to the free-throw line in the second half thanks to numerous whistles. The two squads combined for 45 total fouls, including a whopping 31 in the second half. That led to 61 combined free-throw attempts, 51 of them coming in the second period.
Utah State shot 22 of 32 (68.8 percent) from the charity stripe, while Weber State finished 16 of 29 (55.2 percent).
“We made some free throws. They missed some shots,” Morrill said. “It was a good hard-fought, physical game.”
Preston Medlin scored 17 points for the Aggies to lead all scorers and added nine rebounds and four assists. Aggie big man Jarred Shaw added a double double with 16 points and 12 boards, while Ben Clifford came off the bench to add 11 points. Davion Berry led the Wildcats with 11 points in a balanced effort that saw all nine Weber State players score at least one field goal.
“They are a very physical team, which is something we knew coming in,” Medlin said of the Wildcats. “It was good for us to attack them. We got to the line a lot and I felt like we shot pretty well from the free-throw line.
After four straight home games to start the season, Utah State will move away from the friendly confines of the Spectrum. The Aggies travel to Santa Clara on Wednesday before moving on to another in-state rival, BYU, on Dec. 5.
Meanwhile, Weber State will head to Dayton on Wednesday to finish up a three-game road trip. The Wildcats will return home on the 5th for a date with Utah Valley.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.