RUSTON, La. Regardless of being at home or on the road, the Utah State Aggies played one of their best 12 minutes of basketball to open the game at Louisiana Tech Thursday night.
The next eight minutes of the first half left the Aggies scratching their heads despite winning 71-61 for their 10th straight win overall and fifth straight in Western Athletic Conference play.
The Aggies (15-5) jumped out to a 26-6 lead in the first 12 minutes. They were shooting close to 80 percent from the field at the time and the Bulldogs didn't have a rebound, and instead of dropping the hammer on the Bulldogs, the Aggies switched to cruise control.
"We let up and we didn't stay focused," said Utah State guard Tyler Newbold, who finished with 12 points, eight of which came in the Aggies' early run.
"We relaxed a little bit and we thought we were going to be fine. Like any team does, especially on their home court, they are going to come firing back and that's what they did and made a game of it. We realized that we had to pick it up again and we have to stop doing that," he said.
The Bulldogs (3-14, 0-5) reeled off 11 straight points to cut the lead to 27-17 before Tai Wesley broke a three-minute drought with a foul shot with 6:32 left in the half.
La. Tech eventually outscored the Aggies 22-3 to cut the lead to one at 29-28 with 3:16 left in the half on a lay-up by Dwayne Lathan.
Utah State, led by five points from Gary Wilkinson and two from Jaycee Carroll, built the lead back to eight with seven straight points to end the half.
"We came out slow and we weren't competing and weren't recognizing the things we were working on all week," La. Tech coach Kerry Rupp said. "That first timeout was all about trying to get their attention and get them to compete, disrupt and see if we can take it to them."
In their scoring run, the Bulldogs hit 8-of-13 shots after missing eight of their first 11 to open the game.
At the same time, La. Tech's pressure defense forced the Aggies into five turnovers, and at one point Utah State had just three shots in nearly six minutes before ending the half three of its last six shots and going 3-for-3 from the line.
"When we settled in and ran our offense, we got what we wanted. We shot a great percentage," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said, while at the same time condemning the Aggies' 24 turnovers.
"It's concentration and focus. You get ahead and you relax. (The Bulldogs) did some good things. You have to give them credit. They pressured us and used their quickness."
The Aggies opened the second half nearly as good as they did the first half by outscoring the Bulldogs 12-2 to put the game out of reach. Wilkinson, who had 15 points and nine rebounds, had four points in that run, while Carroll, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, had five in that stretch.
Utah State got the lead to as high as 23 points on a bucket by Stephen DuCharme, who had 11 points and eight rebounds, with 4:33 left. La. Tech forced Utah State into seven turnovers on the final four minutes while cutting the lead down to 10.
"The start of each half we were good. We just didn't sustain it," Morrill said. "You need a little more killer instinct than we apparently have."
The Aggies shot 64 percent from the field, while holding Tech to 40. Utah State also outrebounded the Bulldogs by 25.
Kyle Gibson paced the Dogs with had 14 steals and 17 points, while Lathan added 14.Utah State plays New Mexico State Saturday at 4 p.m. in Las Cruces. Utah State won the first meeting between the two teams earlier this year 74-62 in Logan.