LOGAN — Prior to starting the World Vision Basketball Challenge, his school's holiday tournament, Utah State head coach Stew Morrill mentioned that he wanted to see his team take and make more shots from behind the arc.
Against UC Davis on Friday night, the home-standing Aggies did both, registering season-highs in attempts (22) and makes (12) from 3-point range en route to a 73-61 victory.
Not only was the quantity of 3-point attempts there, the quality was good too. The Aggies' 54.5-percent shooting from beyond the arc was a season-high for the team.
“It was a good night,” said point guard TeNale Roland, who finished 2-for-2 from deep. “We were wide open because they were digging down in the post.”
Preston Medlin was the biggest beneficiary of UC Davis’ insistence on doubling USU’s big men. The junior guard, who has been struggling to score, put together by far his best offensive game of the young season, finishing with 23 points, including four 3-point makes, to go with four assists.
“It was good for me tonight and good for this team,” Medlin said of his increased scoring output. “Obviously, I was trying to be aggressive. I was trying to really help the team out.”
While the USU offense was clicking from outside, the defense left a little to be desired, especially early on. UC Davis shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, including a searing 57 percent from 3-point range. After running off a 15-0 run early in the game, the visiting Aggies were able to stick with USU for much of the first half, including taking a 40-39 advantage into the half.
“Transition was a big thing in the first half. Coach Morrill came in and really chewed us out at halftime for it,” Medlin said. “They shot over 50 percent in the first half, which is way too high for what we want. The second half they only shot 33 percent, which was great for us. I think the reason for that was we stopped the fast break.”
After getting a talking to from Morrill in the locker room, Utah State’s second-half defense was much better. Thanks in part to getting back and denying transition baskets, the Aggies held UCD to just 21 second-half points, allowing Utah State to comfortably pull ahead midway through the half.
“Unlike last night there was some really positive things in the second half,” Morrill said. “We were having a heck of a time guarding them in the first half. They were scoring at will. Second half we stopped the break a little bit. That was a big thing for us.”
The holiday tournament finishes up Saturday night with UC Davis taking on Nicholls State in the early game and Utah State facing Southern Illinois to finish off the three-day basketball round robin. Southern Illinois defeated Nicholls State 65-53 in the early game Friday night to move to 1-1 at the tournament.
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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