"That was a good start for us," coach Stew Morrill said, perhaps selling his squad short. "Our crowd was like it's been a lot of times."
The athletic squad that Morrill worried about beating his team in transition didn't show up. Instead, Utah State was the offensive juggernaut. Midway through the second half, the Aggies were flirting with 21-point leads thanks to big runs in each half.
A 12-0 first-half segment, led by buckets from Kyle Davis and Jordan Stone in the paint, got them out ahead.
But Preston Medlin, back from last season's wrist injury, was the hottest hand in a 13-2 run that broke USC's spirit. The senior guard scored three straight buckets, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the game-defining stretch. Medlin finished with a team-high 17 points, 12 of those in the second half.
It helped, also, that Utah State's passing was on target. The team had 21 assists against only seven turnovers virtually midseason form.
"You think coming into the season that you're going to be a little rusty and have a lot of turnovers," Medlin said. "Tonight we had only seven turnovers. That's great for this team."
Smiles were abound on defense as well, where Utah State held USC under 37 percent from the floor. Aside from offensive putbacks that kept the Trojans alive, the Aggies smothered USC and seemed to tire them out.
The Aggies forced only eight turnovers themselves, but made the most of them with 13 points off takeaways. Although new USC coach Andy Enfield came in with a reputation for running teams that make opponents pay with points off turnovers, his Trojans didn't have many of those moments.
"We were expecting them to push it on everything," Berger said of Utah State's defensive effort. "We were just trying to get back on defense, get matched. We were able to run as well, take advantage of their break and stops we got."
One of the most positive signs the Aggies take out of their game is depth: Six players scored eight or more points, and seven had two or more assists.
Although returning all-conference players Jarred Shaw and Spencer Butterfield got their points with 12 apiece, others such as Stone and TeNale Roland showed offensive ability. As a unit, the Utah State bench outscored USC's bench 19-8, a reflection of the experience the Aggies return.
O Preston Medlin scores 17 points.
• Six Aggies score eight or more points.
• Utah State has 21 assists to seven turnovers.
Utah State 78, USC 65
SOUTHERN CAL (0-1)
Gavrilovic 1-4 0-0 3, Oraby 5-7 5-5 15, Howard 1-7 2-2 4, Terrell 8-17 1-1 20, Wesley 6-18 3-3 15, Prince 1-1 0-0 2, Bryan 1-1 1-2 3, Jacobs 1-6 0-0 2, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Jovanovic 0-4 0-0 0, Haley 0-0 1-3 1.
Totals 24-65 13-16 65.
UTAH ST. (1-0)
Butterfield 5-10 1-1 12, K. Davis 4-6 2-4 10, Shaw 5-11 2-3 12, Medlin 6-13 1-2 17, Roland 2-4 2-2 8, M. Davis 2-4 0-1 4, Berger 2-6 0-0 5, Moore 0-3 2-2 2, Stone 3-3 2-4 8.
Totals 29-60 12-19 78.
HalftimeUtah St. 40-33. 3-Point GoalsSouthern Cal 4-24 (Terrell 3-9, Gavrilovic 1-2, Jacobs 0-2, Jovanovic 0-2, Wesley 0-4, Howard 0-5), Utah St. 8-21 (Medlin 4-9, Roland 2-4, Berger 1-3, Butterfield 1-3, K. Davis 0-1, Moore 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsSouthern Cal 39 (Oraby 9), Utah St. 38 (Berger 8). AssistsSouthern Cal 12 (Howard, Jacobs, Wesley 4), Utah St. 21 (Berger, Butterfield 4). Total FoulsSouthern Cal 17, Utah St. 16. A9,935.