College basketball • Host Aggies breeze past Salukis.
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Logan • Aside from a few sky-scraping dunks by Kyisean Reed, there wasn't much flair to Utah State's win on Saturday night.
Some tight-knit zone defense and a pretty sweet-shooting performance, and that was more than enough for Utah State (9-1) to pound out a 70-58 victory over Southern Illinois (7-4). A sweep of the visiting teams at the World Vision Challenge gave the Aggies their 44th straight home tournament victory and something warm to reflect on over the holidays.
"It was kind of a grind-it-out physical affair, and two pretty tired teams," coach Stew Morrill said. "But we'll feel good about getting a win, winning our tournament and going to Christmas break on a good note."
Spencer Butterfield was out of the lineup with flu-like symptoms, but the Aggies managed their most complete game of the week on their third game in three days. A zone made offense tough for the Salukis, while Reed and Preston Medlin formed an inside-outside tandem that led Utah State's attack.
Reed was the star of the evening, throwing down for a season-high 21 points. He ravaged Southern Illinois when they left him with a one-on-one matchup by backing his way to the basket. But worse was when the Salukis left him with an open lane: He made them pay with jaw-dropping jams.
"I was just taking my time," the senior said shortly after accepting tournament MVP honors. "They left [the defender] on an island, and I was able to take advantage of that."
The Aggies complemented Reed's game with another solid shooting night, hitting 60 percent from the field and going 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Medlin followed up with 16 points and six assists, including a few key 3s that kept the Salukis on their heels.
The one standout for Southern Illinois was Desmar Jackson, who torched Utah State for 29 points. But no other Saluki had more than 10 points.
Southern Illinois got as close as five points back in the second half, but never got within single digits in the final 14:15 of the game.
The Aggies won despite some notable disadvantages: For the first time this year, Utah State was outrebounded. The Aggies gave up 15 turnovers. The bench was stretched thin by Butterfield's absence, and besides Reed, others had trouble scoring in the paint.
But versatility ultimately carried Utah State, as seven players got multiple rebounds and eight had at least a field goal. The shooting helped clinch it, as did an eight-point performance by Marvin Jean in Butterfield's absence.
The Aggies have a week off before venturing to Texas for their first Western Athletic Conference games. Winning eight straight contests tends to boost confidence.
"I think our morale has to be high coming into conference, because we learned a lot about ourselves," Reed said. "We're very versatile at positions everybody can do a lot of things. I think we can play some good basketball."
UC Davis 82, Nicholls State 71 • The visiting Aggies rebounded from Friday night's loss with a win over the Colonels as Ryan Sypkens notched 28 points in the win. UC Davis won the battle on the boards, and held Nicholls State to 41.9 percent shooting in its second win of the World Vision Challenge.
Storylines USU shines in tourney
O Kyisean Reed scores 21 points, earning tournament MVP honors.
• Preston Medlin adds 16 points with six assists.
• Utah State shoots 60 percent from the floor.