LOGAN — The Utah State men's basketball team emerged victorious in its first game of the Athletes in Action Classic, beating the University of Texas Arlington 73-69 on Tuesday night.
Sophomore guard Preston Medlin scored a career-high 27 points for the Aggies, and his 3-point barrage was too much for the visiting Mavericks to overcome.
"Preston had a huge night," head coach Stew Morrill said. "Look at his stat line, he was doing a lot out there. Passing, shooting, rebounding, and he's a good defender. That was a good guard performance tonight."
It was a sloppy first two minutes for the Aggies, as they missed their first three shots from the field and committed several turnovers. The game quickly turned into the Medlin show, however, as the fourth-best 3-point shooter in the Western Athletic Conference hit five 3-pointers on the night.
Trailing 4-0, Medlin caught fire from beyond the arc and turned the deficit into a 20-8 lead for Utah State. Medlin hit four 3s in the span of five minutes, and chants of "Preston's winning!" filled the Spectrum as he single-handedly outscored the Mavericks 12-8.
Fellow sophomore guard Danny Berger Berger had two 3-pointers during the run and finished the night with 12 points, all on 3s.
Utah State finished the first half 7-of-17 from 3-point range, and its first nine field goal attempts on the night came from beyond the arc.
UT-Arlington didn't quit despite the early deficit, and senior forward Bo Ingram closed the deficit to two points after hitting back-to-back 3-pointers and then two free throws. The Aggies responded and, despite two straight offensive fouls, stretched the lead to eight points as junior guard EJ Farris hit a layup at the buzzer for a 34-26 USU advantage going into the break.
Medlin said the team was playing together.
"We kept kicking it out," he said. "(UT-Arlington) was playing zone, and we got in tight and kicked it out for 3s."
Junior forward Kyisean Reed, who had a quiet first half with only one rebound, came out of the gates strong for the Aggies to start the second half. Reed, a junior college transfer, scored Utah State's first five points of the second half on a layup and an old-fashioned three-point play.
It was Reed's two highlight plays that really lifted the Aggies.
With Utah State leading by 11, Reed finished a fast break with a thundering dunk, drawing a foul and completed his second three-point play. On the next trip down the floor, the 6-foot-6 California native slammed home an alley-oop pass from senior guard Brockieth Pane, giving the Aggies a 66-50 advantage, their largest lead of the game.
Medlin said Reed's dunks lifted the team.
"They were great," Medlin said." "They were great energy plays. He does that a lot. We need it. He doesn't realize how much it helps us when he's that aggressive."
Reed finished the night with 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field, and was one of three Aggie players in double digits in scoring along with Medlin and Berger.
The Mavericks made one final push over the final three minutes, but it was too little too late as junior center Jordan Reeves hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the final margin of four.
Utah State improved to 6-5 with the win, while UT-Arlington fell to 4-5 after losing its third straight.
Up next for the Aggies are the Peacocks of St. Peter's College in their second game of the Athletes in Action tournament sponsored by Gossner Foods. Tipoff is set for 8:05 p.m. tonight.