At halftime, the coaches just told us to regroup, settle down and play our game, to push the pace and get stops. I think that's what we did in the second half, and that pushed the lead open. —Utah State freshman forward Daron Henson
LOGAN — The Aggies gave Mississippi Valley State some hope with a sub-par first half. But just minutes in the second half, the Delta Devils were singing the blues.
Utah State outscored MVS 20-0 in the first five minutes of the second half Wednesday on its way to an 83-47 rout of the Delta Devils at the Spectrum.
“I thought we started out really slow, as you can see. Coach told us not to underestimate them, and I think we did a little bit,” said USU freshman forward Daron Henson. “At halftime, the coaches just told us to regroup, settle down and play our game, to push the pace and get stops. I think that's what we did in the second half, and that pushed the lead open."
The victory by the Aggies (2-1) left Mississippi Valley (0-3) winless in the Beehive State. The Devils also lost at BYU, 91-61, last Saturday, and at Utah, 91-51, on Monday night.
But for the majority of the first half of Wednesday’s game, it appeared that Mississippi Valley State had become acclimated to the altitude in Utah rather than tired of all of its travel. The Delta Devils led by as many as nine points in the opening half, and were still within two points of their host second until USU guard Sam Merrill took a pass from teammate Quinn Taylor and went nearly the length of the court for a 3-point play that left the Aggies up 33-28 at halftime.
Sophomore guard Koby McEwen and junior guard DeAngelo Isby then set the tone early in the second half, combining for four 3-pointers and 18 total points in less than four minutes.
“We turned it around; the second half was very, very impressive, and I told them that during a timeout,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “I thought everybody out there was trying to make a play for their teammate, and the ball was popping. The ball was moving. And they were getting open shots for each other.
“Koby made that three to open the half and kind of loosened us up, and the rim got a little bigger and balls started going in.”
Isby ended up leading Utah State with 17 points in just 25 minutes, Henson totaled a career-best 12 points and McEwen finished with 11 points before suffering an injury to his right foot. The reigning Mountain West Freshman of the Year was bringing the ball up when he got caught in traffic near mid-court and came up limping after going down on the floor.
McEwen went up the tunnel to be examined but was back on the court within just a few minutes. But his stay didn’t last long as he “tweaked” his ankle again, according to Duryea, and McEwen was in the training room for the rest of the contest.
“We’ve got to get it X-rayed,” Duryea said of McEwen’s ankle. “ He’s not 100 percent right now, I know that for sure, but I don’t know the extent of his injury.”
Merrill, whose only shot of the first half was his layup with four seconds left, ended up going 4 for 5 from the field for 10 points, while also handing out five assists without a turnover.
Utah State, which led by as many as a 40 points, shot 51.6 percent from the field and went 8 for 20 from 3-point range after shooting just 40 percent in the first half. The Aggies outrebounded the Devils 39-31 and finished with 18 total assists and a season-low seven turnovers.
Junior forward Dante Scott (11 points) and junior guard Jordan Evans (10 points) were the only Devils to reach double figures. Mississippi Valley State shot just 32 percent from the field, including a 5 for 22 performance in the second half.
“I thought we played really good basketball for the first 16 minutes of the game, then we fell apart and just didn't execute,” MVS head coach Andre Payne said. “They did an outstanding job in the second half. Their guys came out and did what they were supposed to do and put us away early in the second half."
Wednesday’s game was the Aggies’ last at home until they host BYU on Dec. 2. The team leaves on Friday for an epic, five-game, 12-day road trip that begins with a game Saturday night at Gonzaga. Utah State then travels to Oregon to face Portland State on Monday before flying back through Salt Lake City and onto Nashville for tournament games against Northeastern and New Hampshire Nov. 24-25. The team then stops off in Indiana on its way home to play at Valparaiso on Nov. 28.
“None of us have ever experienced a road trip like this,” Duryea noted. “I’m not sure how many people in college basketball have. It kind of came together through a lot of elements. It wasn’t planned this way, but a lot of things happened and it just kind of turned out this way.”