<strong>OREM–</strong> Freshman guard Marcel Davis logged his first Utah State start, junior center Jarred Shaw posted a double-double and junior center Matt Lopez made his Aggie debut to lead to Utah State men’s basketball to a hard-fought 69-63 win at Utah Valley Saturday night at UVU’s UCCU Center.
Davis netted a team-high 17 points while Shaw logged his third double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in helping the Aggies improve to 6-1 for the first time since 2008-09 when USU also won its sixth game of the season at Utah Valley. With Saturday’s win, Utah State improved to 8-0 all-time against Utah Valley. The Wolverines fall to 5-7 on the season.
The Aggies have won 32 of their last 40 overall games (.800) against in-state opponents and are 39-12 (.764) against the state of Utah in the last 13 years. Overall, USU is 40-17 (.702) versus teams from the state of Utah under head coach Stew Morrill.
Lopez was making his USU debut in his first game eligible for the Aggies after transferring from LaSalle last season at mid-year. He posted eight points, including two dunks, in adding two rebounds, as USU out-rebounded UVU, 35-20 Saturday night. The Aggies have out-rebounding their opponents in all seven games this season and Saturday’s +15 rebounding margin was right at its season average, while ranks USU third in the NCAA.
Junior guard/forward Spencer Butterfield added nine points while senior forward Kyisean Reed posted eight points while junior guard Preston Medlin scored six points including two free throws in the waning seconds to seal the win. USU shot 29-of-53 (54.7 percent) from the field and was 3-of-14 (21.4 percent) from three-point range. USU was also 8-of-10 (80.0 percent) at the free throw line.
Utah Valley was led by 17 points each by Alvonzo Hubbard and Holton Hunsaker while Nick Thompson added 13 points and Jason Johnson posted 10. Ben Aird led UVU with six rebounds. The Wolverines shot 44.7 percent (21-of-47) field goal shooting, hitting 34.8 percent (8-of-23) from behind the arc and were 81.3 percent (13-of-16) at the charity stripe.
USU had a 17-0 bench scoring advantage Saturday, and have out-scored its counterparts in each of the last three games after not doing so in the previous three games. The Aggie bench has averaged 27.3 ppg in the last three games after averaging just 13.0 ppg in the previous four games, out-scoring the opponent’s bench, 82-37, in the last three games.
Utah Valley had control for a good portion of the first half, but Utah State battled tight, taking its first lead of the night at 20-19 with 10:47 to go on an up-and-under layup from junior guard TeNale Roland. UVU re-took the lead and opened 32-26 lead with 4:21 left on a three-pointer by Johnson. That would be the Wolverines’ last points of the half, as the Aggies closed out the first frame with a 10-0 run starting with a jumper by Shaw and capped by a pair of Reed free throws with 59 seconds left and USU had a 36-32 lead at half time, as the Aggies improved to 5-0 this season when leading at the break.
The Wolverines pulled within 42-39 less than five minutes into the second half after two Hunsaker free throws. Lopez then hit a layup to spark an 8-0 Aggie run capped by Davis with a layup for a 50-39 lead at the 13:39 mark. Those would be the first two of Davis’ personal 11-point scoring run, including hitting a three-pointer and later a pair of free pitch shots for USU’s largest lead of the night at 59-47 with 7:24 to play. The Aggies kept the Wolverines at bay for the rest of the game until UVU pulled within four at 67-63 with 17 seconds to go on a long trey by Hunsaker, but Medlin hit two free throws to secure the Aggies’ win.
Utah State returns home to the friendly confines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum to host the World Vision Challenge, sponsored by Gossner Foods, Inc., on Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 20-22. USU welcomes Nicholls State, Southern Illinois and UC Davis. The Aggies will face Nicholls State on Thurs, Dec. 20, then UC Davis on Friday, Dec. 21 and then Southern Illinois on Saturday, Dec. 22. USU will play at 8 p.m. on all three nights with the other game starting at 5:30 p.m. each night.