LOGAN — Before heading way south of the international border next week, the Idaho State Bengals went just south of their state border to face the Aggies as part of the Cancun Challenge Saturday night.
But the Bengals also saw their hopes of an upset quickly go south at the Spectrum, dropping their 17th straight game to Utah State, 85-51.
"The thing I'm most proud about with our guys is that that's a pretty solid Idaho State team, and we made ’em look like they had a very poor night," USU head coach Tim Duryea said. "They're very well coached, a very tough team, better than what they showed. And I was proud because I thought we had a lot to do with how they looked."
The Aggies (3-0) and Bengals (0-3) will travel to Mexico next week to continue play in the Cancun Challenge. Utah State will take on Purdue (2-1) Tuesday in the first of their two games in the Riviera Division, while Idaho State, which hasn't beaten USU since the 1981-82 season, will face Eastern Kentucky in the Mayan Division.
All five Aggie starters scored in double figures on Saturday, including senior guard Shane Rector (17 points, seven assists), freshman guard Koby McEwen (16 points, nine rebounds and six assists), sophomore forward Norbert Janicek (12 points, four rebounds) and junior forward Ngor Barnaba (10 points, eight rebounds).
Jalen Moore also finished with 13 points to vault the senior forward into 25th on USU's all-time career scoring list, just ahead of his USU Athletics Hall of Fame father, Jimmy Moore.
"It means a lot," declared Jalen, who now has 1,173 career points to Jimmy Moore's 1,164. "I told him I was going to pass him when I came here. I think he's happy about it; we're both happy about it."
The Aggies shot 50 percent from the field, knocked down 10 of 27 3-point attempts and out-rebounded the Bengals 50-32. Idaho State, which connected on just 31 percent of its field-goal attempts, was led in scoring by Ethan Telfair. The senior guard put up 14 points on 5 of 11 shooting despite playing just 25 minutes.
Telfair picked up a technical foul for arguing with a referee over a no-call on a drive to the basket, and ISU head coach Bill Evans pulled his leading scorer with 14 minutes left and never put him back in the game. That brought an end to the spirited battle between Telfair and Rector, who are both from the New York City area, and the two have played against each other since they were 8 years old.
"We go way back," Rector said. "It's a friendly rivalry, but it's always great to get the better of a hometown rivalry. So it felt good.
"I didn't want to get 25 dropped on me, so I definitely came out ready to guard."
Rector, who knocked down 7 of 13 field goal attempts while equaling his career-high for assists, clearly enjoyed the challenge of facing his old foe, who visited Utah State on a recruiting trip the same weekend that he did.
"(Telfair) wanted to come to Utah State, and we know that he's a good player," Duryea noted. "But I think Shane Rector showed what he's made of as well."
Utah State never trailed in the contest, scoring just less than a half minute into the game after a defensive rebound was turned into a long pass from Koby McEwen to Moore for an easy transition basket. That prompted a timeout by Evans after just 37 seconds of game time, and the Aggies quietly stayed out in front until the defense kicked things up a notch midway through the second half.
After ISU guard Geno Luzcando scored to pull the Bengals to within 19-17 with 10:46 to go, that represented the visitors' last field goal for almost nine minutes.
Idaho State quickly fell behind as USU's passing also improved, carving up the Bengals' zone defense again and again. The Aggies pulled away by as many as 17 points late in the first half and took a 40-27 lead into halftime.
The Aggies then picked right up where they left in the second half, scoring eight straight points to force Evans into another early timeout less than two minutes into the half.
"We knew we needed to come out and put ’em away," Moore said. " We had that 13-point lead, but we knew we needed to come out and step on their throats a little bit and make ’em lose hope. And I think they got frustrated. We were hitting shots, and they were turning the ball over."
Already up 48-27, the Aggies just continued to pull away later in the second half, closing out the contest with a 24-10 run over the final 12 minutes.