USU basketball • Transfer from California community college sparks Aggies in first game.
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Spencer Butterfield wasn't exactly having a signature game in his Aggies debut on Saturday night. In his first minutes for Utah State, he racked up two fouls in a blink.
But with less than 10 minutes remaining and the game tied, the team needed a spark. And perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Butterfield was the one who provided it.
In the span of five minutes, the junior guard went 3-for-3 from long range to help the Aggies spread the floor against a tough Idaho State zone. His first 3-pointer broke the tie, and the Bengals never again knotted it up as Utah State went on to a 56-48 win.
Butterfield finished with nine points, two steals and four rebounds.
"He hadn't played very much, but he's a pretty tough-minded kid," coach Stew Morrill said of Butterfield after the game. "Those were huge, huge shots. Glad somebody made them."
Playing at the 2- or 3-spot, it's unlikely Butterfield will see starters minutes playing behind Preston Medlin and at one of the deepest spots on the roster. But that's not necessarily how he might make his biggest impact on the team: Those shooting outbursts could be enough to help the Aggies pull through some tough wins.
Last season, Medlin was the only player who shot above 40 percent from 3-point range. With additions such as Butterfield and Marvin Jean, there could be some improvement in that area.
But Butterfield, who was the California Co-Player of the Year last season at Yuba (Calif.) Community College, brings another element lacking in the early play: toughness. Morrill cited the guard's ability to come off the bench and bring offense and energy to the floor as a characteristic he'd like to see other Aggies emulate.
Butterfield seems to be fine with that kind of role.
"I think coach always tries to tell me I'm the energy from off the bench," he said. "I like to come in and play as hard as I can, whether that's scoring, rebounding, or steals."
Aggies struggle to break zone
The much-discussed struggle of the night was how Utah State couldn't figure out a great solution to the Bengals' 1-1-3 scheme, a zone that blocked off some inside opportunities for the Aggies' big men. Although the team doesn't expect it to be much of an issue against Saint Mary's on Thursday, Morrill hopes they figure it out.
What will help most of all, Morrill said, is toughness. In some of the more green positions, such as at center and at point, he said he saw some rookie errors.
"That's one of the things you've got to learn at the Division I level: You've got to learn you can play," he said. "It drives me crazy when guys are unconfident. It's part of the deal, but not a part of the deal I like."
Quincy Bair donned a polo and khakis in lieu of a jersey as he begins his redshirt year. … The Aggies picked up their third double-digit rebounding advantage this year, but the first one that officially counts after struggling a bit on boards last season. … The win on Saturday marked the 14th straight time Utah State has beaten Idaho State, with Morrill improving to 11-0 against the Bengals.