My teammates were finding me and I was in great positions. I was able to finish, which was positive. —Utah State forward Kyle Davis
OGDEN — Tuesday night's contest at the Dee Events Center had all the ingredients of a great in-state rivalry game. Utah State and Weber State traded leads and battled hard in a game that went down to the final minutes.
Behind a big second half from their backcourt, the Aggies ultimately prevailed, 77-71, in front of 9,169 fans.
“That’s like these games always are — hard fought and come down to a few plays,” Utah State head coach Stew Morrill said.
Forward Kyle Davis scored 16 points, 12 of which came in the second half, and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the way for Utah State. Jarred Shaw finished with a team-high 20 points; Spencer Butterfield had 16; and Preston Medlin chipped in 13 and added seven assists as the Aggie starters did most of the damage.
“My teammates were finding me and I was in great positions,” Davis said about his second half. “I was able to finish, which was positive."
Utah State ran out to a 14-5 lead after making seven of its first eight shots, but cooled considerably as Shaw battled foul trouble and the WSU defense adjusted. The Aggies made just five of their final 22 shot attempts of the half and left the door open for Weber State to stage an early comeback. The Wildcats took advantage and led 33-31 going into the break — the first time Utah State had trailed at the half all season.
“I’m proud of our guys because we got knocked on our keisters in the first half. We started out really well and then they really got it going and we couldn’t get it contained,” Morrill said.
The Aggies adjusted well in the second half, however, countering the Wildcats' drive-and-kick offense with a zone defense. When the offense sputtered, it was Davis who made the difference, finding second-chance points and getting open looks when the Wildcats tried to take away Shaw with double teams.
A motivational speech at halftime may have also helped USU.
“You better start playing,” Davis said of the coaches' halftime message. “It was a good message. We just kept grinding and grinding. Credit to our whole team for coming out there and working through the crowd and the pressure defense. It was fun.”
Both teams finished even in nearly all statistical categories, but the difference came on second-chance baskets. The Aggies finished with an 11-8 advantage on the offensive glass and turned those boards into 14 second-chance points, while the Wildcats ended with just three.
“I think it was just effort,” Davis said of the difference on the glass. “It was something we really emphasized in practice the last few days with how physical they were going to be. We met that and played well.”
Utah State moved to a perfect 5-0 on the season for the first time since 2008-09 and the fifth time overall under Morrill. Weber State dropped to 0-3. Both teams will be back in action on Saturday, with the Aggies playing BYU at EnergySolutions Arena and the Wildcats staying home to face San Jose State.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.