It felt good. I was able to hit one and then the rest of them fell in. —Aggie point guard TeNale Roland
LOGAN — Aggie point guard TeNale Roland has been searching for a breakout game this season, and he found it against San Jose State. The reserve point guard came off the bench for a game-high 20 points, all of them coming in the second half, in an 86-67 win over the visiting Spartans.
“It felt good,” Roland said. “I was able to hit one and then the rest of them fell in.”
The spark Roland provided was needed as the Aggies found themselves in a dogfight with the Spartans for most of the night. San Jose State shot from 3-point range early and often and kept the game close, trailing 30-29, thanks in large part to 7-16 shooting from beyond the arc in the opening period.
Utah State head coach Stew Morrill talked before the game about being concerned about the Spartans' ability to shoot from deep, but SJSU took it to another level, attempting 35 of their 57 shots from long range and making 15. San Jose State was led by Rashad Muhammad, who started 6 for 6 from deep and led the team with 20 points.
“We knew they were going to take a lot (of 3-point attempts). The shot selection we were a little surprised by,” guard Spencer Butterfield said. “They were taking a lot from really far out. We had to adjust to that, get up in them a little more and stretch the floor.”
It took the Aggies roughly 26 minutes to catch on to the Spartans as the two teams traded the lead seven times in the opening minutes of the second half before Roland caught fire. The Louisville, Ken., product knocked down his first attempt with a 3-pointer at the 12:57 mark to put the Aggies up 50-44 and then went on to score 12 points in a row for the home squad.
At the end of the Roland run, USU had a nine-point advantage and would never look back. After struggling to find their footing in the first half, the Aggies rolled up 56 second-half points, the most points for the team in any half this season.
“It was awesome to see him step up and hit some shots,” Butterfield said. “I knew he had it in him.”
Forward Kyle Davis posted his fifth double-double of the season and his third straight with a 13 point and 12 rebound outing. Guard Preston Medlin quietly had a very efficient night, scoring 15 points and adding eight assists without a turnover. Butterfield had 14 points and Jalen Moore came off the bench to add in 10 to round out the double figure scorers for the Aggies.
Center Jarred Shaw returned to the lineup for the first time in five games for the Aggies after being indefinitely suspended in mid-December. Shaw struggled from the floor, shooting just 2 of 10 and finishing with six points, but collected nine rebounds and two blocks.
“The impact he makes on the game is something you don’t even notice sometimes. The way he contests shots, the way he gets us going,” Kyle Davis said. “It was a huge emotional lift, and I’m as happy as could be that he’s back.”
The victory was the first in league play for the Aggies as members of the Mountain West Conference.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.