LOGAN — After dropping two of its last three games on buzzer-beaters, Utah State was in need of a confidence booster. The Aggies found it Saturday night in the Spectrum by getting a well-balanced team effort that resulted in an 80-71 victory over Illinois State in the final edition of ESPN’s BracketBusters.
“We had a great team effort tonight,” Utah State guard TeNale Roland said. “Everybody contributed.”
All seven Aggies that checked in scored at least six points, led by Jarred Shaw with 18 points and 11 rebounds. It was Shaw’s eighth double-double of the season. Four players finished in double figures for USU, but it was not just the scoring that was evenly distributed. Every Utah State player dished at least two assists and collected two rebounds as well.
Roland had one of his best efforts of the season, and so did fellow point guard Marcel Davis. Roland had 13 points and five rebounds coming off the bench. Davis finished with nine points, six rebounds and a team-high eight assists.
Spencer Butterfield added another six rebounds from the guard line. Butterfield has collected six double-digit rebound games this season, but found himself in a competition with his teammates to collect the long caroms Saturday night.
“It was good. I was pumped for them,” Butterfield said of losing some of his rebounds to Davis and Roland. “That is what we need — as many people going to the glass as possible.”
While it was all smiles after the game, it did not look good early for the Aggies as the visiting Redbirds came out firing from deep. Illinois State made eight of its first 15 attempts from beyond the arc and did not register a two-point bucket until the 1:27 mark of the first half.
“We didn’t start very well — looked like we could get beat by 30 — but we righted the ship and did a lot of good things,” head coach Stew Morrill said.
One of those good things was a mix of defenses that considerably slowed down the 3-point barrage.
“We went zone, man, triangle-and-2,” Butterfield said. “Just trying to mix it up and throw them off a bit.”
After starting 8-15 from 3-point range the Redbirds made just three of their next 17 attempts, with all three makes coming in the final three minutes of the game.
Guard Tyler Brown and forward Jackie Carmichael did the heavy lifting for the visitors. Brown scored 35 points, the most by an Aggie opponent this season, while Carmichael chipped in for another 20 points.
“Mixing our defenses caused them some problems,” Morrill said. “It didn’t cause Tyler Brown any problems, but it caused the rest of them some problems.”
Overall the Aggies finished 6-2 all time in the BrackBusters event, which ESPN announced in December will be discontinued after this season, and participated in a non-televised game for only the second time in the eight-year span.
Utah State moves back to conference play next week with games at Louisiana Tech and UT Arlington. Louisiana Tech currently leads the WAC with a perfect 14-0 league record.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.