LOGAN Utah State took offense to Stew Morrill's four-letter "S" word following its blow-out loss to UC Irvine last week.
No, not that word, rather this one: Soft.
"We did. I definitely did (take offense). Every time coming out now I put that game face on," Utah State forward/center Tai Wesley said following the Aggies' 71-68 victory over Austin Peay Tuesday night.
"I thank Irvine for beating us up and making us tougher," Wesley said. "Without that game we probably would have been soft tonight. That game was a big wake-up for us that we need to be tougher and be the aggressor and be a solid, physical basketball team."
Wesley, who was one of four Aggies to score in double figures with 12 points. All-American candidate Jaycee Carroll led the Aggies with perhaps his best all-around game of his career with 20 points, seven rebounds, eight assists (all team-highs) and no turnovers (a team low).
"The word 'soft' was mentioned, and that we played pretty soft on the road, and our teams have never been real soft and I don't think they liked that word,' Morrill said. "I might have to bring it up some more.' Wesley, before fouling out played with attitude, as did Gary Wilkinson, who was a relative no-show in the Aggies' losses to Cal Poly and UC Irvine last week.
"He (Wesley) is not afraid to mix it up and if he needs to he will," Morrill said. "We need a little bit of that. Not in a bad way or dirty way. He thinks he's (actor/wrestler Dwayne Johnson) 'The Rock."'
"We came out swing a little more than just taking punches," he said. "It took us getting beat up at Irvine to really see that. We had 'The Rock' out there power-bombing people after the whistle. ... It was also nice to have Gary Wilkinson be physical down there. That's the way he plays, and we didn't see it the last couple of games. He came out physical and got offensive rebounds and finished around the basket."
Wilkinson finished with 19 points (10 in the first half) and five rebounds, while Stephen DuCharme finished with 10.
"We knew they (the Governors) were going to be very aggressive and felt like that's what he had to do was try and match that aggressiveness, and we came out pretty strong," Morrill said.
"We had trouble down low defensively on a pretty simple play," Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said. "We were so worried about their shooter and we gave up a lot of lay-ups. They executed their plays very well and we didn't."
The Aggies (3-3) led by as many as 14 points in the second half saw the Governors (1-2) whittle the lead to three points and had an open three-point look to tie the score.
"I was encouraged that we found a way to win that ball game," Morrill said. "We still turned it a little too much and they scored a lot in the second half. You can find a bunch of things we can be better, but the end result was awfully positive for us right now."
The Aggies, who shot just 36 percent in the loss to Irvine, came out and hit 11 of their first 13 shots and, while defensively, they held the Governors to just 4-of-15 shooting in that same stretch to build a 25-11 lead.
Utah State went on to lead by 12 at the half. After Utah State took the lead back up to 14, Austin Peay began chipping away at the lead and had it down to four with nine minutes left.
A lay-up by Wesley with just over six minutes left pushed the Aggie lead up to 13. Austin Peay's Wes Channels knocked down a three-pointer with 1:23 left and the lead was back down to three.
The lead was three when Utah State's Kris Clark turned the ball over under the Aggie basket with 17 seconds left giving the Governors a shot to tie, and Derek Wright's three-pointer at the buzzer just rimmed out.
The Aggies shot a blistering 65 percent from the field for the game, while AP shot 45.5, raising it from 33.3 percent in the first half.
Fernandez Lockett led the Governors with 17 points and Channels added 16.The Aggies left this morning at 7 a.m. for Texas to completed the final two games in the South Padre Island Classic. They tip with SEC's Vanderbilt on Friday and then play Iowa or Bradley on Saturday.
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