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The whistle blew, signifying Brockeith Pane's third charging foul Friday night, and Utah State's senior point guard reacted in disbelief as his mouth formed a huge "O."

The rest of the night, Pane was the one evoking responses of amazement from everybody else in the Spectrum as the Aggies took a 69-62 victory over BYU.

In a season-opening basketball game that cried out for someone to emerge, for a star to take over when everything was tense and frenzied, Pane was the obvious candidate to remain cool.

Not judging by the first 28 minutes, particularly. The Western Athletic Conference's preseason player of the year was struggling with fouls, forcing shots and playing passively against BYU's zone defense.

"It was very frustrating," he said of the first half, "because I wanted to be out there with my team."

The second half did not start especially well for him and the Aggies, either, but then everything changed. Trailing by four points, USU produced a 17-2 run with Pane right in the middle of it all.

He recorded eight points and two assists in that stretch, feeding Preston Medlin for a go-ahead 3-pointer and finishing the Aggies' burst with a steal and layup for a 55-44 lead with 4:06 remaining.

Just like that, a game that seemed destined to go right down to the end was over. After a first half when he posted four points and one assist, Pane finished with 21 points, five assists and three steals.

It would not be oversimplifying things to say the Aggies won this game because they have a point guard and the Cougars don't.

Pane made that distinction clear in the last 12 minutes. Until then, he was frustrated and these teams appeared evenly matched.

"That's what makes a good player great," said teammate Brady Jardine, "when you go through a stretch when you're struggling a little bit, to be able to turn it around and get going again."

As a junior college transfer, Pane began last season with a 23-point game against Weber State. But he struggled a week later in a six-point loss to BYU in Provo, going 2-for-11 from the field with three assists and four turnovers.

This time, Pane caused the Cougars all kinds of problems. Among the more clever, tasteful signs appearing in the USU student section was this reminder of who the Cougars are missing: "Jimmer is unemployed."

NBA lockout or not, BYU could have used Jimmer Fredette's ballhandling as much as his shooting. The Cougars may have trouble in that department until Dec. 17, when UCLA transfer Matt Carlino becomes eligible. Brock Zylstra is filling in for now, and three of his five turnovers came during USU's decisive run as Pane and Kyisean Reed invented their own two-man press.

"Pretty smart," said USU coach Stew Morrill, describing Zylstra as "an inexperienced point guard that's not really a point, and they got after him a little bit."

BYU showed some good signs, but preventing the Aggies from winning a 32nd straight home game was going to take a 40-minute effort, and the Cougars "panicked a little bit," coach Dave Rose said.

The Aggies lost six seniors from a 30-4 team, and it will be a while before Morrill stops labeling them "inexperienced." They still had the best player on the floor Friday, and Pane delivered.

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