Jim Urquhart, AP
LOGAN — Utah State believed it would be tested physically by top-level SEC athletes when Mississippi State rode into town Saturday night.
To counter, the Aggies did what they do best — they played efficient, mistake-free basketball. Utah State shot higher than 50 percent from the field and routed the Bulldogs 87-68 in front of a near sellout crowd of 10,043 at the Spectrum.
The win moved USU to 4-0 for the first time since 2008-09 and dropped the Bulldogs to 3-1.
“It’s a great win for us,” guard Preston Medlin said. “In practice this week, we did a good job of getting the scout team pressuring us. We kind of figured it out. ... I thought our offense was great tonight.”
Mississippi State's pressure defense was difficult for the Aggies to solve early on. USU led by only one point midway through the first half, but then pulled away with a nice run from its go-to guards. Medlin was held scoreless for the first 15 minutes, but exploded for a quick 11 points in the final five minutes before the break. Butterfield chipped in 10 at the half to put the Aggies up 41-28. Mississippi State never led in the game and got no closer than eight points in the second half.
The Bulldogs had bullied their first three opponents on the glass, averaging 20 offensive rebounds a game, but the Aggies dominated the rebounding category Saturday night. Jarred Shaw and Jalen Moore led the way with eight rebounds apiece and as a team USU held Mississippi State to just six offensive rebounds and only eight second-chance points.
“Our coaches told us they would crash the offensive boards hard, so I was just trying to be aggressive on the rebounds and get some for the team,” Moore said.
The only negative on the stat sheet for the Aggies was a season high in turnovers (16), but the cost of those turnovers were 26 fouls on the Bulldogs. With all the fouls, Utah State had a well-worn path to the free-throw line, finishing 20 of 27 from the charity stripe to help salt the game away.
“We’re supposed to be this big, athletic SEC team and we couldn’t guard them,” Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray said. “They beat us up on the rebounds. They got to the free-throw line more than we did and we just didn’t compete.”
The Aggies were led by Medlin, who finished with 21 points to lead all scorers. He added a team-high six assists. Butterfield finished with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting and six rebounds. Shaw added 17 points despite battling foul trouble throughout in limited minutes.
Off the bench Moore made the biggest impact of his young career. The Sky View High School grad scored nine points in just 17 minutes.
“He’s just very composed for a freshman,” Morrill said about Moore. “He doesn’t get too rattled. He just plays. He’s going to be an awfully good Aggie.”
There won’t be much time for USU to rest following its victory. The Aggies have a busy week ahead with road games at Weber State on Tuesday night and a showdown with BYU at EnergySolutions Arena next Saturday.
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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