After a confusing and emotional day that included a bomb scare, Utah State reopened Thursday night following a morning bomb threat that forced campus-wide evacuation to host a confusing and highly unemotional basketball game.
Utah State, 6-8 overall and 3-2 in the Big West, was an easy 74-64 winner over University of the Pacific (7-9, 3-4) in the Spectrum before 6,120.But it was half-win, half-lose, as both teams took turns sleepwalking. USU won the first half 46-21 and lost the second 43-28.
"Wasn't that awful?" said Aggie Coach Kohn Smith.
The Aggies could do no wrong at first, sprinting to a 13-7 lead on nine points and a steal from Rich Jardine and four points, a blocked shot and two steals from Kendall Youngblood.
They could hardly help building to a 27-point margin. Pacific was scoreless for nearly six minutes, and the Ags held the Tigers to one basket in 10 minutes, running them 25-2 as Allen Gordon, Jay Goodman and Bryon Ruffner had steals.
Youngblood, Randy Funk and teammates, neutralized Pacific scorers quickly. Dell Demps averages 20 points but had three. Don Lyttle averages 15.5 but had seven. For the game.
"We did come out tough and sharp," said Smith, noting defense and good court-running sense. "Then it disintegrated. Everything we talked about at halftime was to see how well we could start the second half, and we started just flatfooted."
"We got tentative. Coach let us hear about that," said Youngblood. "He's real upset. We did it the first of the year, and it cost us four or five games."
"Kendall played well," Smith said. "He was the only one."
Youngblood scored an Aggie-high 17 points. He had three steals the first half. He kept the second half from being a disaster with eight points in the first nine minutes; he came out with 8:55 left.
Youngblood's first basket of the second half, a jumper from the free-throw line at 17:50, gave the Aggie junior his 1,000th career point. It's more impressive than it sounds, said Smith. "His 1,000 are very unselfish points. Everyone thinks he needs to get more aggressive offensively. It's a special accomplishment."
"It's great," said Youngblood, "but it's always better to win." This was victory in the standings but not in the mind, he said.
Smith was on everyone else's case. Jardine started for the first time in four games, shot 3-for-4 and had five rebounds. "I'm trying to prepare myself even more mentally," Jardine said. Smith said Jardine didn't defend or play a good second half. Goodman, a first-time nonstarter (sprained ankle), was ineffective and not because of the ankle, said Smith.
"I played a lot of guys," Smith admitted.
"I don't think that caused us to play better or worse," said Jardine. "He was trying to put people in who would work, dive on the floor, run the lanes."
Everyone scored and played at least three minutes. Most of the far end of the bench played seven or eight minutes. A 20-point lead dwindled.
"That's disappointing to me," said Smith. "I'd like to see those guys play well."
It was a strange day for both teams. The Tigers arrived for their shootaround just as the campus was closed. Neither team got a shootaround. Smith spent the afternoon trying to find players, who didn't know where to go for a scheduled squad meeting or team meal. Youngblood was in the library when it was evacuated; he was upset he couldn't use the time to prepare for Friday classes.
"It bothered both teams," said Smith. "But - that's character, now. We've got a job to do; go do it."
"It affected them more than us," said Youngblood. "It made us focus more."
The day was extra hard on assistant coach Jim Boatwright, who played pro ball for eight years in Tel Aviv and was a 1980 Israeli Olympian. He heard one Iraqui Iraqi missile hit an area where four or five friends live. "It's like a dagger in your heart," he said, likening himself to "hundreds of thousands" of others with Middle East ties.