After the century-mark-plus victory over Irvine Wednesday, Utah State was in a feeding frenzy mood Friday night when big, physical and highly respected Santa Barbara showed up in the Spectrum.
"We were pumped from the beginning," said Aggie reserve center Jeff Parris, who's put together two outstanding games. "We knew it wasn't going to be like Irvine (an easy 111-88 Aggie win to start the Big West season against a team that played little defense)."And they underestimated us from the start," added Parris.
Gaucho Coach Jerry Pimm begged to differ with that, saying he knew Utah State's losing record was peppered with tough instate games, but he agreed that the Aggies "really took it to us on the backboards. They banged us around, and our guys didn't respond."
Utah State got behind twice, at 2-0 and 5-4. From then on, the Aggies outmuscled and outhustled a bigger team and beat the Gauchos 81-75.
That gave Utah State a 2-0 Big West record and 5-6 season record while Santa Barbara dropped to 1-1 and 6-4. Next up for Utah State is a two-game road trip starting Monday at Fullerton with No. 1 UNLV on Wednesday.
Aggie guard Jay Goodman, who had 21 on Wednesday, poured in 31 points Friday, making seven of 13 three-point attempts while taking 21 shots overall and hitting 10 of them.
The Aggies led by 14 points on four occasions.
The Gauchos mounted three major runs, and Goodman put a stop to all three of them with his three-pointers.
"I think our team's getting to be tougher mentally," said Aggie Coach Kohn Smith. "When things go wrong, they're making the big play to get us back in."
On the first comeback, Santa Barbara got within 29-26 after being down by nine, but two Goodman free throws and a three-pointer made it 36-26 real fast. On the second, the Gauchos made four shots without missing to start creeping back from 12 down to eight down, 53-46, but two Goodman threes made it 59-45.
And on the third Gaucho stab, which cut the Aggie lead from 63-49 to 67-63 with 6:54 left, another Goodman triple from the corner slashed the momentum.
"They were doing nice things to get him open shots," said Pimm. "Those two threes he hit from the corner and one off the double screen really killed us."
Of that critical basket with 6:09 left, Goodman said, "We needed a basket. Randy (Funk) yelled, `I'm going to give you a pick.' It gives you a lot more confidence when they're setting picks like that," Goodman said.
"Maybe too much confidence," laughed Smith, who has to hold his breath with some of the shots Goodman casts up. "You kinda want him shooting it; he's learning," Smith said.
Pimm tried several guards against Goodman, who had 22 in the first half. "We tried to guard him with quickness and tried to guard him with size." Six-foot-6 Paul Johnson did the best against Goodman, said Pimm, "but he can't guard everybody, and he did the best job on Kendall (Youngblood), too."
Youngblood had 11 points but five assists and five rebounds.
Parris, who made some key rebounds late in the game to help Goodman put a stop to that final Gaucho gasp, said, "I love to watch Jay hit those threes. Goodman can lead the nation in three-pointers, and when I go in, my No. 1 priority is to get him open."
The other is rebounds, and Parris had eight of those in just 18 minutes to lead the Aggies. Gary Gray of Santa Barbara led all with 10 rebounds, but Utah State outrebounded the bigger Gauchos 43-31 and got 16 offensive rebounds.
"The freshman, (Bryon) Ruffner, was really a factor with his second shots," said Pimm. Ruffner had five offensive rebounds and 12 points in his second straight start.
"He was making freshman mistakes but playing really hard," said Smith, who added he could live with aggressive mistakes.
"It was a lot different than high school and a lot different than the last game," said Ruffner, who scored 16 and had seven rebounds Wednesday, "but you just get your mind frame in the game."