LOGAN — It’s not every year that Utah State's basketball team hosts an in-state opponent in the Spectrum. The SUU Thunderbirds made the trip up north to take on the Aggies, hoping to become the first in-state team to beat the Aggies in Logan since BYU in 2000.
The Aggies started the game off hot with a 3-pointer from senior point guard TeNale Roland, and from that point on the SUU T-Birds were playing catch up for the rest of the game. The Aggies were able to maintain their lead with a dominant performance by senior center Jarred Shaw, who had his first double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 rebounds. USU thumped the T-Birds, 90-57.
Aggie sophomore forward Kyle Davis also contributed on the defensive end, where he had three blocks to cause problems for his former team. Davis, who played for Southern Utah his freshman year, transferred to Utah State after serving an LDS mission in Detroit.
SUU, only returning two seniors from its previous season, looked outmanned and outmuscled throughout the game. SUU senior center Jayson Cheesman got into foul trouble early and sat out most of the game, only playing 14 minutes. A bright spot for the T-Birds was the effort freshman guard Trey Kennedy made, leading his team with 11 points and 2 for 4 from beyond the arc.
USU, starting its season 2-0, heads to California Saturday, where it will take on UCSB, which might be the toughest opponent the Aggies have played thus far in the season. The Gauchos are coming off an 86-65 thumping when they took on Mountain West Conference powerhouse UNLV in Las Vegas.
The Thunderbirds came into the game after a season-opening victory over Arizona Christian. The Thunderbirds will take on California-Berkeley next Monday in California.
Here’s how each position group fared in Tuesday night's in-state battle.
TeNale Roland got the Aggies rolling early on and had an average game, finishing with 10 points, 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Preston Medlin, who’s thought to be one of the leaders for the Aggies, seemed to be non-existent through the night, making only making one basket and 6 points on a 1-5 effort through the night. Granted it was against SUU, but the Aggies will need their senior leader to have a bigger impact when it comes to conference play. Sophomore point guard Marcel Davis showed off his passing ability with 6 assists in 15 minutes played.
Spencer Butterfield led the swingmen with 11 points on a 5-7 effort and grabbed one of the Aggies' three steals on the night. Kyle Davis also had a big night on the defensive end, gathering three blocks and scoring 7 points. Jalen Moore still seems like he’s finding his place on the team, but there were flashes where he looked very confident in his jump shot, scoring 8 points on the night. Even crowd favorite Danny Berger came into the game and made a 3-pointer to add to the swingmen's night.
Jarred Shaw led all scorers on the night with 24 points and 10 rebounds. If Shaw can continue this dominant effort throughout the season, the Aggies are going to surprise a few teams. Along with Shaw’s dominant effort, backup center Jordan Stone came in and acquired two quick fouls before going back to the bench. Later, Stone got the crowd on its feet with an enormous dunk. He ended the game with 7 points.
With 20 minutes until tip-off, students were still walking into the stadium, and what normally is a full stadium was noticeably empty. Even with the shortage of students, the Aggie faithful still gave a commendable effort. Coming up with creative cheers and the “Make it rain” skit whenever someone hit a 3-pointer was quite clever. With the game in the bag, students left for the gate early, missing out on the final “Winning team Losing team” chant to end the game, which is a shame, because with a full crowd it is one of the greatest sights in college basketball.
Stew Morrill coached the game really well. USU has a very deep bench, and he used that to his benefit. Not one player played more than 30 minutes, which is a good thing for a team that was riddled with injuries last season. The more time the younger guys like Moore and JoJo McGlaston get, the better off they will be once conference play comes around. Not only that, but getting Ben Clifford and Sean Harris (players plagued with injuries) on the court for the first time in the season was good to see.
Trey Kennedy, the lone bright spot for the Thunderbirds, scored 11 points on what was a very ho-hum effort for the T-Birds. Chris Nsenki, who also started the game, added 4 points. The SUU guards struggled throughout the night defending the Aggie guards, and scoring was very limited.
The T-Birds were doomed from the start when their two starting forwards managed to score only 2 points between the two of them. Kyle Davis and Spencer Butterfield for the Aggies did a solid job of holding the SUU forwards to limited numbers. Senior Jaren Jeffery only gathered 2 rebounds and 2 points on the night.
Early in the game, senior Jayson Cheesman got into foul trouble and wasn’t able to get anything started for the T-Birds. The centers were saved by the effort from Logan native Cal Hanks, who managed to fill in for Cheesman and score 10 points in 15 minutes played.
Nick Robinson, the head coach for SUU, did a commendable effort. One thing that Southern Utah did well was shoot free throws. Shooting free throws in the Spectrum isn’t the easiest thing to do, but the T-Birds shot nearly 85 percent at the line. If SUU can shoot like that when conference play comes around, it may actually steal a few games. Coach Robinson has a lot of youth to work with, acquiring seven freshmen this offseason.