OREM — Utah State coach Stew Morrill and his Aggies traveled two hours south down I-15 on Saturday with an unblemished overall record against the Wolverines of Utah Valley University.
Thanks in large part to freshman point guard Marcel Davis and a strong effort from their bench, they made the trek home with that perfect record intact.
The Aggies survived a hard-fought game to post a six-point, 69-63 win at the UCCU Center. It was a contest that quite possibly was a lot closer than it should have been.
USU outrebounded the Wolverines 35-20, outscored them 38-22 in the paint, outshot them 54-44 percent and outscored their bench 17-0. But a deep 3-point shot by Wolverine point guard Holton Hunsaker pulled the Wolverines within four with 15 seconds to play.
Preston Medlin calmly sank two free throws to put the game out of reach and sealed the victory for the Aggies.
“It was a lot scarier than it should have been, but you’ll take a road win however you can get them,” Morrill said. “We did a good job on the boards. We had some valuable contributions from guys that aren’t our leading scorers. Marcel had a good game for us. They played off him and he didn’t like it much so he got aggressive.”
Davis, a Utah County native and former American Fork Caveman, quickly acclimated to his familiar surroundings and led a balanced Aggie attack.
“We played our first game every year at American Fork here, so it was nice to see some familiar faces,” Davis said. “My guy was doubling down low so they kept kicking it out to me but I wasn’t hitting my 3s, so I decided to attack the hoop and get into a good rhythm and then I finally hit one. We just buckled down on defense and that was the change in plan for the game.”
The Wolverines jumped out to an early lead with an effort spearheaded by Alfonzo Hubbard, who scored 14 points in the first 10 minutes, as the Wolverines built up a slight lead. Hubbard went ice cold, however, only scoring three points over the final 30 minutes. Despite the unbalanced approach, UVU managed to stay within striking distance up until the end.
“They hit some shots,” Davis said. “They have some really good players and good 3-point shooters. Holton Hunsaker made a big, deep 3-pointer.”
Every player scored for USU but only two players finished in double digits — Davis (17) and Jarred Shaw (12). The bench has been key over the past several games, and Morrill says they're a huge part of the Aggies' team this winter.
“We expect them to step up," Morrill said. “They’re good players. I mean, you didn’t get a Division-1 scholarship to not come off the bench and do something. We have confidence we’re going to play nine, 10 guys. That’s about all we got right now. We’ve got a lot of guys sitting in Polos on the bench that are out for the year. That gives other guys opportunities and they’ve got to respond.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company