John Zsiray, AP
LOGAN — For head coach Stew Morrill, Friday night was just about everything he likes to see in his basketball team. With a boisterous, near sellout crowd at its back, Utah State rolled to a 78-65 victory over the visiting USC Trojans. The Aggies have now won 19 of their last 20 season openers and are a perfect 9-0 in the Spectrum in that time frame.
“It’s a good way to open the season with a great team coming in from a high-powered league. Our crowd was like it’s been a lot of times,” Morrill said. “Our guys responded and did what they needed to do. It was encouraging.”
The Aggies were in control most of the night, never trailing after the 13:30 mark of the first half when a 12-0 run pushed the Aggies to an early 21-11 advantage. The run was sparked with star guard Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw on the bench and showed the depth that this year’s USU team could have. Nine players checked into the game, all playing at least 12 minutes. Four players finished in double figures, led by Medlin’s 17 points. Seven players recorded at least two assists, and six players grabbed at least four rebounds.
“I love the balance we had scoring-wise,” Morrill said. “We had a lot of guys step up and score the ball.”
The key to the Aggies' offense was precise execution. Morrill stressed to his team all week to make the extra pass, and the message paid off. The Aggies shot 56 percent in the first half and 48 percent for the game and assisted on 21 of their 29 made baskets.
“We had 21 assists and just seven turnovers. That’s a real good stat,” Morrill said. “We were sharing the ball. That was our emphasis all week.”
The Aggies led 40-33 at half and came out of the locker room guns blazing, with a 13-2 run immediately out of the break, capped by a Jarred Shaw fast break dunk to take a 53-35 lead. While Shaw had the highlight play of the run, it was Medlin who did most of the damage, scoring eight quick points to put the Trojans out of reach early in the second half.
“That was awesome. You’d think coming out at the beginning of the season you’d be a little rusty and have some turnovers, but we only had seven turnovers,” Medlin said. “We have guys that can make the extra pass. That’s all we needed.”
In his first game back after last year’s heart attack Danny Berger came off the bench and filled the stat sheet. The junior forward had five points, four assists and a team-leading eight rebounds while playing some excellent defense on the Trojans' athletic wings.
“I had a lot of adrenaline out there and my heart was pumping a little bit,” Berger said. “It was good to feel and it was good to be out there.”
Utah State will stay at home over the weekend and will take on in-state foe Southern Utah on Tuesday in the Spectrum.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
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