Cloninger’s career-high 21 gives USU women 88-78 win over Air Force in Mountain West debut Wednesday

LOGAN, Utah – – A career-high 21 points from freshman guard Shelby Cloninger guided the Utah State women’s basketball team to an 88-78 win over Air Force in the Aggies inaugural Mountain West game Wednesday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

The win snaps a two-game losing streak and improves USU record to 7-5 overall and 1-0 in Mountain West action. Air Force falls to 1-10 overall and 0-1 in league action. The Aggies have now won five-straight conference openers after winning its last four Western Athletic Conference openers. Since the re-instatement in 2003, Utah State is 6-5 in league openers.

Cloninger was one of four Aggies to score in double figures, junior forward Franny Vaaulu added 14 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Jennifer Schlott had her team-leading third double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 assists. Junior guard Elise Nelson scored in double figures for the fourth time this season with 11 points to go along with seven boards, five assists and three steals.

Schlott continues to make her mark in the Utah State record books. With 326 assists, Schlott is just 45 helpers away from the USU record for career assists. Aggie-great Taylor Richards (2005-08) holds the career record with 371.

Air Force had three players in double figures led by Jimi Blagowsky’s 19 points. Blagowsky was 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, as the Falcons made 15 treys. Camille Thompson scored 17 points, while Cherae Medina added 16.

Cloninger hit her first four threes of the game to help the Aggies take an early 16-7 lead over the Falcons. Fifteen of the Aggies first 16 points came off of treys.

Another Cloninger three gave USU a 29-17 lead with nine minutes left in the opening half. This was the Aggies first double-digit lead of the game. Utah State was able to jump out to a 31-17 advantage without a point from leading-scorer Schlott, who made her first basket with seven minutes left in the half. The Aggies scored 12-straight points before the Falcons fought back to score five in a row to cut the lead to 23-11 with 4:56 remaining.

In the first half, Utah State was led by Cloninger’s 15 points. Off the bench, junior forward Jasmine Porter added six points and six rebounds as USU’s leader on the boards. Vaaulu and sophomore center Tijana Djukic both scored four in the first half, as nine different Aggies found the bottom of the net. Schlott had only three first-half points, but added six assists.

Air Force was led by 10 points by Medina, while three different players scored five points. Missy Byrd was the Falcons leading rebounder with six boards off the bench.

The Aggies began the second half much as they started the first, taking a 19-point lead 58-39 after a layup by senior guard Cristal Turner.

After a free throw by Turner, USU took its first 20-point lead 63-43 with under 13 to play.

The Falcons did not give up using back to back threes to cut the lead to 72-64 with under seven minutes to play. Another three by Medina increased the Air Force run to 14-0, as the Utah State lead dwindled to 72-67. Vaaulu stopped the run with a jumper with 5:15 left.

A pair of Schlott free throws gave USU an eight-point advantage with under four left to play as USU looked to seal the win. But yet another three by Thompson cut the lead Aggie lead to four points, 82-78. Schlott came through with her 11th point of the game to give USU the 84-78 lead. The Falcons would not score again as USU sealed the 88-78 win.

Utah State opens the road portion of the Mountain West schedule at San José State on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 3 p.m. (MT). This is also the Spartans first season in the MW.

All USU home games are streamed on the Aggie Digital Network in conjunction with the Mountain West Digital Network. Fans can watch the streaming by going http://www.utahstateaggies.com/videos/. Live stats will also be available by clicking on the “Live Stat” link on the USU web site.

Fans can follow USU women’s basketball at www.twitter.com/UtahStateWBB, as well as on facebook, at www.facebook.com/USUWBB. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at facebook, at www.facebook.com/USUAthletics. Utah State women’s basketball is now also on instagram at www.instagram.com/USUWbasketball.

Aggie women’s basketball tickets will be available by contacting the USU Athletics Ticket Office at (435) 797-0305 or at 1-888-U-STATE-1 (1-888-878-2831) for more information or visit the Utah State athletics web site at www.UtahStateAggies.com.

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Posted in USU