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Logan • Everyone in Logan is excited about the Utah State football team's Western Athletic Conference championship even Stew Morrill.
The Aggies basketball coach said as much after his team's 77-68 win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi on Saturday night. Morrill talked about what it means to win a conference championship, and congratulated the football team for getting there.
"We've been fortunate to be in their shoes a few times; winning a championship is a wonderful thing," Morrill said. "As for us, we've still got a ways to go."
There were a few sticking points, but the Aggies' second showing in only three days was perhaps their strongest to date. Again, Utah State showed it can win games in the paint this season, as Kyisean Reed and Jarred Shaw did work inside.
Shaw buried his attempts, going 6 for 7 for 17 points, while Reed provided an aerial assault with a few crowd-pleasing dunks. They truly took off at the start of the second half, when the Aggies led by as much as 21. By the finish, Utah State held a 32-20 points-in-the-paint advantage and outrebounded their third straight opponent.
But it was not one-dimensional, as the Aggies' backcourt had a resurgence after a subpar outing against Saint Mary's on Thursday. Preston Medlin tied Shaw for team lead with 17 points while nailing a few timely 3-pointers and picking up fouls on drives to the lane. TeNale Roland responded to reduced minutes on Thursday by scoring nine and dishing seven assists with no turnovers.
As a team, the Aggies passed well to finish with assists on 21 of their 25 made field goals.
"It was something coach emphasized: We gotta get assists, we gotta find the open man and take that shot," Medlin said. "That's something we struggled with in the Saint Mary's game, so it's good we shot better tonight."
Considering how well the Aggies performed on the stat sheet, it was surprising that the game was close at all. But the Islanders crept back into the contest with their on-point deep shooting. Will Nelson led the charge, dropping 17 points all in the second half and going 4 for 6 from 3-point range.
The lead shrunk gradually from double digits to only seven points in the final minute. The Aggies didn't help themselves with a second straight game of pedestrian free throw shooting, but eventually Utah State's pressure wore on the Islanders.
Roland came away with a steal with five seconds left, finishing with a layup on the other end as a cherry on top of Utah State's second win.
The Aggies now have a week before Weber State comes to Logan in an in-state challenge. Morrill expressed that when the Wildcats visit, he hoped they could put the game to bed a little earlier.
It's part of the process as the team works toward its own WAC title much, much later in the year.
"We were greatly overrated at the start of the season, and people are saying we're supposed to be better," Morrill said. "No we're not we're supposed to be developing. And that's what we're trying to do."
Storylines USU 77, Texas A&M CC 68
R Preston Medlin and Jarred Shaw each score a team-high 17 points.
• TeNale Roland adds nine points and seven assists with no turnovers.
• The Aggies have a 10-board edge for their third straight double-digit rebounding advantage.