Utah State (13-9, 3-7) broke a five-game losing streak with a liberating 83-75 win over visiting Nevada (12-11, 7-3), a game that saw the Aggies drop the tension and frustration of the past few weeks. A program that has been used to winning found a way to win again, led by a 20-point, 11-rebound effort from senior guard Spencer Butterfield.
In a second half that saw them score 55 points, the Aggies looked as loose and free as they've been since the new year and their first games in the Mountain West began. As it became clearer and clearer a victory was imminent, many players even allowed themselves to smile.
"It started on Monday practice: We just wanted to start fresh in the second half of the league," he said. "Just kind of relax and play hard like we know how to play hard."
The first half seemed not to be heading that direction. The Aggies were down by eight early, and only a mighty effort on the glass and a late run helped lift Utah State up by a single point at halftime.
But the ugly struggles on offense gave way out of intermission. It took only eight seconds for Preston Medlin, held scoreless in the first half, to drop in a 3-pointer from the wing.
TeNale Roland followed up with another 30 seconds later, and from there points seemed to flow from the Aggies.
The team shot 61.5 percent from the field in the second half, including going 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Medlin scored all of his 14 points in the second half, complementing an 8-for-9 shooting night from Butterfield and a 17-point, 13-rebound double-double from Jarred Shaw.
The game was still close with eight minutes left, Nevada down by two and star guard Deonte Burton fighting back. Utah State rolled out of a timeout, coming up with a 10-1 run from which the Wolfpack never truly recovered.
Coach Stew Morrill said the victory represented the work of a team determined to change their fortunes after a rocky first half of Mountain West play.
"It's hard when you're 2-7 and got your tail kicked last time," Morrill said. "We had really good practices and talked about having some energy and not cashing it in. … I thought our guys were really engaged and really played hard and gave themselves a chance to win.
"Obviously we needed a win," he added with a chuckle. Even Morrill felt a little light-hearted.
The Aggies' aggressiveness showed up in some key statistics in their favor: Utah State had a plus-10 edge on the boards, including 11 offensive rebounds.
The Aggies also got themselves to the charity stripe, making 25 of 31 attempts, including 10-for-12 by Kyle Davis. Nevada only took 19 free throws.
"We tried to get it inside a little more," Butterfield said. "Sometimes we rely too much on our outside shot. Tonight the main focus was get inside, get into our posts, drive it."
O The Aggies score 55 points in the second half to roll
• The win breaks a five-game losing streak in conference play
• Both Spencer Butterfield and Jarred Shaw have double-doubles
Utah State 83, Nevada 75
West 2-4 2-3 6, Huff 7-11 6-7 21, Evans, Jr. 2-11 2-2 7, Perez 5-14 0-0 12, Burton 9-18 4-7 23, Coleman 2-3 0-0 4, Fenner 0-0 0-0 0, Fall 1-1 0-0 2, Stevens, Jr. 0-4 0-0 0.
Totals 28-66 14-19 75.
UTAH ST. (13-9)
Butterfield 8-9 2-3 20, K. Davis 1-8 10-12 12, Shaw 7-12 3-4 17, Medlin 4-11 3-4 14, Roland 2-4 2-2 7, M. Davis 2-2 0-0 4, Clifford 0-2 0-0 0, Berger 1-1 0-0 2, Moore 1-1 1-2 3, McGlaston 0-1 0-0 0, Stone 0-2 4-4 4.
Totals 26-53 25-31 83.
HalftimeUtah St. 28-27. 3-Point GoalsNevada 5-20 (Perez 2-6, Huff 1-3, Burton 1-5, Evans, Jr. 1-6), Utah St. 6-14 (Medlin 3-7, Butterfield 2-3, Roland 1-3, Clifford 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsNevada 30 (Huff 7), Utah St. 40 (Shaw 13). AssistsNevada 9 (Huff 3), Utah St. 17 (Medlin 7). Total FoulsNevada 22, Utah St. 18. A9,950.