LOGAN — Quinn Taylor and Utah State dominated Utah Valley on the glass as the Aggies defeated the Wolverines 65-46 on Friday night in front of a loud home crowd.
"First of all I'd like to thank our fans. Boy, what an unbelievable home court tonight. I mean the Spectrum was rockin'," said head coach Craig Smith. "We're working hard to get the magic back, and it made a difference, there's no doubt."
"It was great to see the HURD out today. It's always great playing in the Spectrum like that," said Taylor. "It's always fun when you can win at home."
Taylor set a new personal best with 15 rebounds to go along with 10 points for his third double-double as an Aggie.
"I love that guy. I know that love is a super strong word, but I do. He is all about the right things," Smith said of Tayor. "He came here, walked on and bet on himself and took a chance. He couldn't be a more perfect fit for us for how we play because he's just so smart, so unselfish, such a great teammate, really knows how to play. He seems to be in the right place at the right time."
Sam Merrill led the Aggies once again in scoring with 14 points. Still, it wasn't quite the offensive explosion that we've seen from Utah State in its first three games.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well during a physical game. Utah State shot just 30.9 percent from the field and 3 for 13 from behind the arc. The Wolverines shot just 36.2 percent from the field and a dismal 18.2 percent from the 3-point line.
"There was a stretch where they couldn't throw it in the ocean, point-blank shots, and we couldn't make a point-blank shot," said Smith. "We've got to do better. The Hartford game we didn't finish well. Tonight we didn't finish well. It will definitely be a point of emphasis going forward."
That's a testament to how physical both teams played in this game.
"It felt like a conference game, even a conference tournament game with the physicality," said Taylor. "That's going to definitely prepare us for next week and once conference comes."
"It was obviously a very physical game. I thought defensively we were pretty good. They shot 30 percent, had 17 turnovers," said Merrill. "Offensively we weren't great. We didn't really finish well offensively, but when we defend like that against a pretty good team, a team that can score like they can, you're going to win plenty of games."
But Utah State won the rebounding battle 50-37 and had 11 steals. John Knight III made four of those steals while Tauriawn Knight added three more to give the team a defensive spark from the bench.
"John gets four steals and I think two or three of those were literally just because he was in the right gap," said Smith.
Utah State ended the first half on a 12-0 run that included a 3-pointer from Brock Miller, a nice jumper from Sam Miller and steal by Taylor that Dwayne Brown promptly turned into an easy dunk. The Aggies kept the Wolverines from scoring for the last 4:17 of the half. That run ballooned into a 16-0 run as the Aggies scored the first four points on the second half.
UVU simply wasn't able to come back from that deep of a deficit. TJ Washington led the Wolverines with 14 points and six rebounds while Connor Toolson added 11 points. However, Jake Toolson had a rough night with just four points and five turnovers.
Now Utah State is 1-0 against in-state teams, and that means a lot to this team.1 comment on this story
"It's extremely important for so many reasons. First obviously being pride, but there's lots of implications that come with that," said Merrill.
"Every game matters, but in-state games matter a little more," said Taylor. "There's a little bit more pride on it. We knew they were going to come in and play hard, and we were prepared for that. We knew that we had to come out and be the first one to throw a punch, and we did that."
Utah State improves to 4-0 and faces Saint Mary's of the WCC next Monday at the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas.
Correction: Previous versions of this story had Quinn Taylor's name wrong.