LOGAN — In what was once a 22-point blowout, Utah State held on in the final minutes to beat Nicholls State 79-72 on Thursday night in the Smith Spectrum.
Utah State had nine team blocks in the first half, led by senior forward Kyisean Reed who had four. Reed made 7 of 9 field goals to go along with 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals to lead the Aggies.
"I just got position where I wanted the ball," said Reed, who scored a team-high 20 points. "It was pretty easy in the first half."
Nicholls State failed to score for a six-minute stretch in the first half, part of a 16-2 run which allowed the Aggies to take a 14-point lead with 8:17 before halftime in the annual holiday World Vision Challenge tournament.
The Aggies defense held the Colonels without a basket in the 1:30 in the half, which ended 43-22.
"I think we just had too big of a lead," Reed said.
Nicholls State came roaring back in the second half, led by guard T.J.
Carpenter. The freshman hit four 3s, including one with just fewer than four minutes in the second half to pull the Colonels within five. He drained a pair of foul shots a minute later to shrink the lead to three.
Junior guard Thomas Dantrell scored on back-to-back layups to keep the Colonels close, but Carpenter fouled out with 1:29 to play. He finished with 23 points, four assists and a steal.
Carpenter's fifth foul may have saved the Aggies. The Colonels scored just two points in the final 1:48, and Aggie junior guard Preston Medlin had an assist and drained two foul shots to help put the game out of reach.
Medlin finished with seven points, nearly half his season average.
Utah State head coach Stew Morrill said his Aggies were fortunate to win.
"We thought it was going to be easy, then (Carpenter) hits three 3s because we don't guard him," Morrill said. "We've got to grow up."
The Colonel's traditional leading scorer, senior guard Fred Hunter, scored 17 points — well below his season average of 25.3. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound guard went 7-16 from the field, grabbing 10 rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes of play.
Freshman point guard Marcel Davis led Utah State in assists with seven, but the Aggies stopped taking care of the ball in the second half, giving up 15 points from turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
"We're not the quickest team, so we have to be disciplined," Morrill said.
Utah State junior center Jarred Shaw finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but turned the ball over five times.
"We were up and just got lackadaisical," Shaw said. "If we do that in conference, we'll get beat pretty bad."
"To me it feels like we lost," he added. "We didn't play well at all."
Utah State will face UC Davis on Friday at 8 p.m. in the Spectrum.
"We'll move on," Reed said.
UC DAVIS 78, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS 70: Corey Hawkins scored 20 points and J.T. Adenrele added 18 points and 11 rebounds in leading UC Davis in the first game of the tournament.