LOGAN — Utah State had just watched BYU surge ahead early in the second half when the two in-state rivals collided inside the Smith Spectrum on Friday in the season-opener for both teams.
The Aggies, however didn’t panic.
Far from it.
Utah State ramped up its defense exponentially, made plays at the other end and fed off its raucous crowd to emerge with a 69-62 win over the Cougars.
Here are five keys to Utah State’s victory:
1. USU DEFENSE STIFLES BYU’S OFFENSE IN THE SECOND HALF
When they needed to, Utah State’s players put pressure on BYU’s offense and forced the Cougars into missed shots and mistakes.
That was especially true over the middle part of the second half when Utah State took over.
After playing OK defense, Utah State got all over BYU.
The Aggies pressured the ball and they pressured the post, making it extremely difficult for BYU to make plays. In the first game of the post-Jimmer Fredette era, the pressure proved to be extremely difficult for BYU to handle.
Behind the stout defense, Utah State built up a double-digit lead en route to the victory.
2. BROCKEITH PANE MAKES PLAYS
Utah State’s star senior point guard got into quick foul trouble early and his contribution was therefore limited in the first half.
In the second half, however, he made lots and lots plays — both for himself and for others.
Pane finished with 21 points and five assists and was the driving force behind Utah State’s offensive attack, as he made the plays to put Utah State in position to win.
3. UTAH STATE BIG MEN MAKE BYU BIG MEN WORK
BYU senior forward Noah Hartsock finished with 18 points and junior center Brandon Davies finished with 13 points, but nothing was easy about any of those points.
Indeed, Utah State’s big men, led by seniors Morgan Grim and Brady Jardine, made Hartsock and Davies work and work to be successful offensively.
Grim and Jardine and Co. put pressure on BYU’s big men and made sure the Cougars didn’t really get going down low.
Special mention should also go to Jardine, who finished with 12 points and played with high energy, as always.
4. WEATHERING THE EARLY SECOND-HALF STORM
After being called for just six fouls in the first half, Utah State suddenly found itself in a lot of foul trouble to begin the second half.
BYU, meanwhile, came out with a renewed sense of purpose and had many of its starters, who had been sitting on the bench because of foul trouble, back on the floor.
It could’ve been problematic for Utah State’s mostly inexperienced players.
However, the Aggies found ways to weather the storm, staying within just a few points of BYU before making their push to take control of the game.
5. USU DOESN’T LET BYU GET OUT AND RUN
Under coach Dave Rose, BYU’s style of play has always been to push the ball up and down the floor and to get out and run as much as possible.
The Aggies, however, did a very nice job of keeping the pace of the game where they wanted it — slowed down — and limited BYU’s transition opportunities.
BYU only had a handful of fast-break opportunities, and that was exactly what Utah State coach Stew Morrill would have hoped for.