LOGAN — Heading into Saturday night, Utah State had lost just nine times at home against nonconference opponents during Stew Morrill's tenure as head coach.
Pacific emphatically made it 10 by recording a 78-68 win over the Aggies. Overall, USU is now 113-10 under Morrill in nonconference home games, with the last loss before Saturday coming against Saint Mary’s in November 2012.
USU looked sluggish from the very beginning in the abnormal 5 p.m. tipoff. Jarred Shaw hit two free throws to start the scoring, but that would be the Aggies' only lead of the night. The Tigers scored the next six points and never looked back, pushing their advantage to as many as 13 before going into the half with a 37-29 lead.
“I don’t know if we had a hangover from the BYU game or what, but we were not ready to play and we got taken advantage of in the first half,” Morrill said.
The Aggies mounted a few comebacks in the second half, but could never quite get over the hump. With a little more than 12 minutes remaining, Aggie point guard Marcel Davis slashed through the lane for a layup to cut the deficit to 48-47, but the Tigers responded with a 3-pointer from Ross Rivera almost immediately. Following the Davis layup the Aggies scored just a single free throw in five minutes as the Tigers built the lead back up to double digits.
“We just weren’t ready from the beginning,” Davis said. “Pacific is a good team with a lot of experience. We have to be ready from the beginning of every game. ... We have to play hard the whole game; we can’t just play hard at times during the game.”
Utah State was led by Shaw with 17 points and Davis with 13 points. Star guards Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield both struggled offensively. Medlin shot just 2 of 8 for nine ponts, while Butterfield was 4 of 11 for 11 points.
The biggest issue Morrill had following the game was the Aggies' subpar defense. Pacific shot an even 50 percent and turned over the ball just four times. The Tigers dominated in the paint, outscoring the Aggies 42-24, and also turned 12 USU turnovers into 15 points.
“We are really having trouble defending,” Morrill said. “If we don’t get better defensively it’s going to be a long year. We have a really hard time guarding the ball. We don’t help well enough. People just take advantage of us. That’s something that has to come from within. ... We have a lot of guys who worry about offense. We have to worry more about the defensive end.”
Starting power forward Kyle Davis did not play and was wearing a knee brace during warm-ups. Morrill said the sophomore guard hurt his knee in practice Friday and wasn’t able to go full strength after testing it out during warm-ups. Morrill does not believe that the injury would be a long-term issue.
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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