Utah State defeated Weber State for the second time this year, winning 85-73 over the in-state rivals in the championship game of the Basketball Traveler’s Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods. The win was also significant, in that it clinched the Oquirrh Bucket, which is awarded annually to the Utah team with the best record against in-state opponents.”We’ll throw that (the Oquirrh Bucket) in the trophy case,” junior forward Tai Wesley said when informed of the achievement. “I don’t know much about the history of it, but that is pretty cool.”Wesley played a big part in helping the Aggies win the Invitational that spanned over the last three days. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, while shooting 6-9 from the field. After the game, Wesley was named the tournament MVP. Utah State was well represented, as Jared Quayle and Pooh Williams were both voted to the all-tournament team.”Offensively, he (Wesley) was great,” USU Head Coach Stew Morrill said. “We run so much through Tai. Not only does he score, but he really can pass the ball. He understands what we are doing.”Wesley was not the only Aggie to play well on Wednesday night. USU received lots of help off the bench, as the backups combined to score 30 points. This was especially significant considering that starting center Nate Bendall was scheduled to undergo heart surgery, and is expected to be sidelined for around a week. Modou Niang was able to step in and replace Bendall very well. The 6’10” post player had a career high, as he scored 13 points and pulled down 7 rebounds to lead the way off the bench. Niang was even able to receive a standing ovation from the 9,427 fans in attendance, when Coach Morrill pulled him in the final seconds.”We needed to have somebody step up like that. I told Modou last night that he was going to get his chance,” Morrill said. “The thing is, you can never give up on anybody, but especially big guys. Big guys sometimes take a little longer.””That was not the same guy. I’m not completely stupid. If I had seen what I saw tonight in practice, he would have been playing more. He’s got to build on that. I think that will really help his confidence.”The Wildcats got big performances from two players; Damian Lillard and Kyle Bullinger scored 22 and 21 points, respectively. The duo warmed up in the second half, relying on three point shots and free-throws to come by points. Weber State, who is coached by former long-time Aggie assistant Randy Rahe, went 21-46 for 47% from the field. 25 of those 46 shots were of the three point variety.Utah State will now receive a well needed rest after playing five games in the last eight days. The Aggies will have the next three days off before practicing on Sunday and Monday to prepare for Western Oregon, who will visit the Spectrum Tuesday night. Following the Western Oregon game, the Aggies will begin WAC play on the road, traveling to New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.”It’s nice that we fought through some fatigue, because there were some tired guys out there tonight,” Morrill said. “… We are going to go into the Christmas break with three wins and three days off.”
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