LOGAN — Nate Bendall took the entry pass on the post, gathered himself and smiled.
Utah State's 6-foot-9 junior center had a mismatch he knew he could exploit — and so he did.
Bendall scored a career-high 20 points and matched his career best in rebounds with 10 as the Aggies tore apart San Jose State in the second half for a 77-58 win in front of a sell-out Spectrum crowd.
With that win, the 16-6 Aggies now find themselves tied for first place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record thanks to six consecutive wins.
"It always helps when you have a 6-3 or 6-4 guy on you," Bendall said. "He's a little bit of a pest sometimes, but you know you can score."
San Jose State, after starting 6-9, 255-pound C.J. Webster on Bendall early, switched to a four-guard lineup for much of the game. And that nearly always left one of Utah State's post players enjoying a decided mismatch.
And when the ball hit the post, that usually meant bad things for the Spartans.
In addition to Bendall's big night, the Aggies got a career-high 17 points from backup big man Brady Jardine.
"We knew they were going to use four guards," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "But if they are going to make us guard four guys like that on one end, we're going to make you pay with our bigs on the other end."
Utah State, after holding only a 39-36 lead at the half, dominated the second half as Bendall, Jardine and Tai Wesley asserted themselves inside. The Aggies had an overwhelming 42-18 advantage in the paint.
"Well, it was a really good second half for us," Morrill said. "We played awfully good basketball in the second half, offensively and defensively."
And San Jose State, on the other hand, didn't.
With the Aggies shutting down the Spartans in the second half — SJSU shot only 21.4 percent over the final 20 minutes of play — the game quickly turned from a tight one into a runaway.
USU connected on 60.7 percent of its second-half shots and finished the game with 54.2-percent marksmanship. Bendall made 9-of-14 shots and Jardine was 8-of-11 from the floor, including a thunderous dunk after he stole a pass with about a minute to play that put a large exclamation point on the win.
"Tonight's a huge win," Jardine said. "We're right back in the race."
Utah State's defense was, again, the difference in the game.
Pooh Williams had the task of containing SJSU's high-scoring Adrian Oliver — the reigning national player of the week and the WAC's leading scorer.
Oliver still managed to get his points — he had a team-high 19 — but Williams' defense took him out of rhythm and made him miss 11 of his 16 shots.
Williams added 14 points for the Aggies.
"San Jose State is a very capable team," Morrill said of the Spartans, who had won three straight and charged their way up the WAC standings. "You saw that in the first half. We couldn't stop them."
But halftime adjustments were made, the Spartans wore down trying to guard USU's bigs, and after missing their first five shots of the second half were down by double digits and couldn't get back into it.
The Aggies finished with 20 assists and only seven turnovers while also making 9-of-18 3-pointers.
Now in first place, the Aggies hope to keep the momentum flowing as the host Idaho on Wednesday and Nevada next Saturday.