LOGAN — The big question surrounding the Utah State basketball team going into Thursday night’s game with Texas State was the status of Spencer Butterfield.
The junior guard injured his hip against Louisiana Tech last Thursday, missed the Aggies' last game and didn’t practice until Wednesday. Whether he would play was a question to everybody in the building — except of course Butterfield.
“I had a mindset that I was playing no matter what. I didn’t care,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield did more than just play; he dominated the hapless Bobcats (9-21, 4-13) in a 77-61 rout by the Aggies (20-9, 10-7). Butterfield's stat line didn't look like it belonged to a player that hadn't practiced all week and was dealing with a hip injury. Just missing out on a triple-double, Butterfield had 10 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and seven assists.
“Oh well. I guess I need to look to pass it a little more,” Butterfield laughed after the game.
With Butterfield back in the starting lineup the Aggies played with energy that was lacking on their recent road trip.
“Obviously it’s positive to have Spencer back,” head coach Stew Morrill said. “I mean, the guy had 20 rebounds. That’s pretty amazing. He’s got a great nose for the basketball. His line, other than missing a few shots, was obviously impressive.”
The Aggies raced out to a 21-6 lead on their way to a wire-to-wire victory. The early lead was mostly thanks to a stifling defense that kept the Bobcats below double digits for the first 17:25 of the game. Utah State forced 19 turnovers, leading to 23 Aggie points, 11 steals and eight blocks.
“We were active. We had a lot of deflections offensively,” Morrill said. “They had a really hard time scoring in that first half and that kind of set the tone for the game.”
Jarred Shaw produced a double-double of his own with 15 points and 10 rebounds despite coming off the bench. Ben Clifford had 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks, while Marcel Davis had 12 points, seven assists and five steals to round out the Aggies' double-digit scorers.
Vonn Jones came off the bench to score 19 and lead Texas State as the only Bobcat in double figures.
Lost in Butterfield's return and big day was the team breaking the 20-win mark. The Aggies have now won at least 20 games in each of the past 14 seasons — a feat only Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse have accomplished.
“Last year it was a struggle to get to 20, it felt like,” said Clifford, one of the only healthy members of the 2011-2012 Aggies left. “It feels good to get to 20. It would be nice to have more, but hopefully it gives us some momentum going into the WAC tournament.”
The Aggies wrap up the regular season Saturday night with a home date against Texas-San Antonio. USU is locked into a fifth-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference and will face Texas-Arlington in the first round of the WAC tournament in Las Vegas next Thursday night.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.