Saturday night, the Utah State Aggies welcomed the Fresno State Bulldogs, rekindling an old WAC rivalry.
The Bulldogs pulled away early, and leading the way for the Bulldogs in shooting was senior guard Tyler Johnson, shooting 4-of-6 3-pointers and ending with 21 points.
The Aggies, a normally solid 3-point shooting team, were as cold as the Logan weather, shooting 6-for-21 on the night. The Bulldogs claimed a 34-18 lead in the first half. Aggie fans seemed like this one was far out of reach, and some fans headed for the doors. That is until the Aggies made a roaring comeback to end the half, finishing with a 15-to-5 run.
The Aggies finally retook the lead with 15 minutes to play in the second half after senior Aggie Tenale Rowland made a layup. However, that was the last time the Aggies led the game, because Fresno State reclaimed the lead a few minutes later and held on to it for the time remaining.
A late push by the Aggies kept fans interested, nailing key 3-pointers to keep the game in scoring reach. However, a controversial call with .4 of a second on the clock will leave Aggie fans wondering “what if” as the Aggies fell, 79-76. It’s been a theme for most games this year.
Who knew the Aggies had so many guards on their bench. Players who normally don’t see playing time played key minutes for the Aggies. Freshman Viko Noma’aea played 10 minutes and freshman JoJo McGlaston played 17 minutes. Normally they are held to five to seven minutes per game, but these two guards should play more often.
Coach Stew Morrill is trying everything he has to spark this Aggie team, and from what these two guards showed last night, they have a chance to do that. It's not coincidence that when the three freshmen — including Jalen Moore — entered the game, the Aggies started their comeback, checking in when the game was down 16-31.
Noma’aea didn’t score very many points on the night, only making a jump shot early in the first half. McGlaston surprised a lot of people in the game, and fans questioned why he hasn’t played all season. McGlaston ended the night 3-for-5 from the field and shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, ending the night with eight points. Maybe Morrill should consider starting these two guards over his senior guards, because Medlin and Rowland played 30 minutes each and only outscored the two freshmen by eight points.
Morrill would be commended if he started the freshmen because it could spark the two senior guards or give meaningful minutes to these freshmen and start a new path for the future. Either way, something needs to be done with this starting guard unit. Right now, it isn’t doing anything right for the Aggies. Grade: C
Senior Spencer Butterfield looked to be really off in Saturday’s game, attempting shot after shot but nothing seemed to fall. That was until the second half, when he made crucial 3-pointers to get the Aggies back into the game, but the bright side is that Butterfield does so many other things on the court other than just shooting. He ended with six assists and four rebounds.
For sophomore Kyle Davis, it was a nice comeback game. He ended with 14 points, but he even had a better night on the boards, collecting 15 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end. Freshman Jalen Moore didn’t do much on the night; grabbing a few rebounds and totaling three fouls. But Moore is playing a position he’s not built for yet, and while guarding bigger and stronger players in the post, it was easy to see that Moore was struggling to defend them. Hopefully for next season, Moore gets in the weight room and puts on needed muscle to play down in the post. Grade: B-
If it weren’t for Jarred Shaw, the Aggies wouldn't be much of a threat, if any. Shaw, the only reliable offensive scorer the Aggies have, put up 18 points and had seven rebounds. It’s impressive to see how well Shaw’s post game has improved over these last two seasons, and it’s a shame that he isn’t on a team that is competing for a conference championship. Shaw could be a key asset to any conference championship team.
When All-Conference votes start, a serious thought should be given to Shaw. It seems you don’t lose any production on the floor at center because backup Jordan Stone does a great job coming in the game and putting up points and rebounds while Shaw takes a rest. Stone ended with six points and one rebound, but he only played 11 minutes on the night. Stone plays really well with the younger group of players, and his ability to push around other big men is amusing. Utah State has to worry what it will do with this position after Shaw and Stone graduate this spring. Grade: B+
There was a period when JoJo McGlaston hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Aggies were making a second push to get back in the game. Then right after McGlaston’s second three he was taken out of the game for Preston Medlin. It was obvious that McGlaston was on a roll and making key shots, but to take him out for a player who hadn’t done much to that point made no sense.
Morrill did put McGlaston back in the game with three minutes remaining, but there was no way that McGlaston could get back to the way he was shooting earlier. Morrill should update his starting rotation to Noma’aea at point guard, McGlaston at shooting guard, Moore at small forward, Kyle Davis remaining at power forward and finally Jarred Shaw at center.
This would give a much needed energy boost to the starting lineup, which struggles at the beginning of most games. Rowland and Butterfield aren't great starters. Sure, they have been dependable this season, but they played their best last year on the bench coming in to spark the crowd with their 3-pointers. Frankly, out of the three, Medlin deserves it the least after these past few games. Set a fire in his ignition and make him compete for his starting role again. Grade: C
It was great to see the crowd loud at the end of the game, but it wasn’t until the end of the game that they made their voice “Hurd.” The Hurd is an essential aspect to every Aggie home game. Giving up so many games at home this season is not the Aggie way, and these fans should come out and support their team every game. With one game remaining, they should send these seniors off right with a rocking performance Wednesday night.
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That being said, the students packed the stadium moderately, and they cheered throughout the whole game. With a Mardi Gras theme — due to a Mardi Gras dance that followed the game — the stands were filled with colored beads, and many students in the front row were wearing colorful masks. It was different, and it brought an exciting feel to the stadium. They should come out even bigger and better for their last game on Wednesday. Not only is it senior night for the players, but most of the fans that run the front row are seniors as well. They should go out with a bang. And if the students don’t want to go out and support their team, they should go out and support these seniors who have made these games so incredible over the years. Grade: B
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