Utah State basketball: Aggies slip past Gauchos in holiday tournament OT thriller
LOGAN — Utah State basketball fans almost had to watch something Friday night that nobody in Cache Valley has seen for more than 40 years.
Fortunately for the Aggies, though, what they witnessed instead was an incredible comeback and another rousing home-court victory in their annual men's holiday basketball tournament.
Senior swingman Spencer Butterfield fueled a fierce rally late in the second half, then hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime as Utah State slipped past UC Santa Barbara 77-71 in the Basketball Travelers, Inc. Classic in front of 9,809 grateful fans at the Spectrum.
Thanks to some late-game heroics by Butterfield, this Aggie team avoided the stigma of being the first Utah State squad to lose in the school's annual December tourney since 1971.
Instead, the Aggies have now won 47 straight games in tournaments they have hosted. Their last such loss came in the championship game of the Big Blue Classic way back in 1971, and they've gone 42-0 in the annual holiday event since Gossner Foods took over sponsorship of it in 1994.
Butterfield poured in a career-best 31 points, hitting 9 of 15 shots from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and all nine of his free throws. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to share game-high honors with teammate Kyle Davis.
Butterfield saved his best for last. After the Aggies (8-2) fell behind by 10, 49-39, with 10 1/2 minutes remaining in the second half, Butterfield joined forces with Preston Medlin as Utah State staged a 24-13 run to grab a 63-62 edge with 44.2 seconds remaining in regulation. Butterfield scored 12 of the Aggies' points in that game-turning surge and Medlin had seven more.
A 3-pointer by UCSB's Kyle Boswell, who bombed in seven 3s on the night on his way to 27 points, gave the Gauchos a 65-63 lead with 22 seconds to go, but Kyle Davis' tip-in tied it at 65 and set the stage for overtime.
UCSB grabbed a 68-66 lead early in the extra session before Butterfield's clutch 3 put Utah State ahead permanently. Freshman Jalen Moore drove for a reverse layup, and Butterfield's putback boosted the Aggies' lead to 73-68 with 56 seconds left.
Butterfield and Marcel Davis each added a pair of free throws in the final 22.7 seconds to preserve the victory.
Medlin finished with 14 points and Ben Clifford added 10 before fouling out early in OT.
Alan Williams, who ranks among the national leaders in both scoring and rebounding, had 23 points and nine rebounds for former Big West Conference foe UCSB (6-4) — he came in averaging 23.3 ppg (fourth in the country) and 10.4 boards (14th nationally) — but he had to put up 24 shots.
The last time these two teams met, on Nov. 16 at Santa Barbara, Calif., the Aggies came away with a 71-64 victory. USU's Jarred Shaw, who was suspended earlier in the week for a violation of team rules, had nine points and nine rebounds in that game, and Williams didn't play due to back spasms he suffered during pregame warm-ups.
WESTERN ILLINOIS 61, TROY 58: In Friday's first game at the Spectrum in Logan, the "other" Jabari — WIU's Jabari Sandifer — broke a 58-all tie with two free throws with 6.3 seconds left, then added another one with one-tenth of a second to go to lift the Leathernecks to victory.
Adam Link had 24 points and seven rebounds to pace WIU (5-6), while Garret Covington added 14 points and Tate Stensgaard had 13 more. Tevin Calhoun's 14 points led Troy (4-6), which will face the Aggies in the tourney finale Saturday at 8:05 p.m. Kevin Thomas added 13 points and Hunter Williams 12 more for the Trojans.
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