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Logan • The Western Athletic Conference schedule is not even at the halfway point. Yet the conference race is Utah State's to lose.
The Aggies are now a perfect 7-0 in the WAC, thanks to Saturday night's 59-49 win against New Mexico State before 10,013 at the Spectrum in a nationally televised game.
Almost as important as USU's convincing win was Boise State's road victory at Idaho. It means the Aggies have at least a two-game lead on every team in the conference. And that's a huge advantage for Utah State in its quest to win a fourth consecutive WAC regular-season championship.
"If you would've told us we'd be 7-0 before the conference started, I would've taken it," USU coach Stew Morrill said. "The three road wins were huge, and it's a great start. But we have a long way to go, a lot of games left to play."
The Aggies have won in impressive fashion, and Saturday night was no exception. Down 15-9 with 12 minutes remaining in the first half, Utah State went on a 26-4 run to take control. Defensively, USU was superb, holding an athletic New Mexico State squad to 36 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
USU outrebounded the Southern Aggies 21-10 in the first half. And while Troy Gillenwater hurt Utah State in the paint and with his perimeter jumper, no other New Mexico State player made an impact.
The Aggies got another great performance from senior forward Tai Wesley, who dominated offensively down low, despite battling foul problems for most of the game. USU also received a huge contribution from sophomore backup point guard E.J. Farris, who keyed the first half run with several assists and a 3-pointer that gave the Aggies a commanding 35-19 advantage.
"I thought E.J. was a big factor for us," Wesley said. "He came in and made plays for others. He really sparked us during that run."
It was a lead that would never slip below 10 points. Even with an offense that went dry for long stretches in the second half and even with turnover problems USU was just efficient enough to maintain a working margin.
The win against New Mexico State is the 13th straight for a Utah State team that hasn't lost since Dec. 4 at Georgetown. The Aggies have won 21 consecutive league regular-season games, extending a record they set on Thursday with a victory against Louisiana Tech.
And the win, before a national ESPNU audience, sets up at least the possibility that Utah State could be ranked come Monday morning.
Wesley finished with 18 points, while Brian Green had nine and Tyler Newbold played his usual steady all-around game.
Pooh Williams scored eight for the Aggies, and Brockeith Pane played another good floor game.
Nate Bendall and Brady Jardine had 11 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
Junior forward Gillenwater, one of the best players in the WAC, scored a game-high 20 points to lead New Mexico State.
R Utah State wins its 13th consecutive game against NMSU.
• USU's win is keyed by a 26-4 first-half run.
• Tai Wesley leads USU with 18 points.