LOGAN – After a five-game losing streak, the Utah State basketball team finally found its way back into the win column Tuesday night against New Mexico. Using a new, taller lineup, Tim Duryea was able to coach his players to an 80-72 win, and it came against one of the top teams in the conference.
Senior guard Chris Smith, who led the Aggies with 19 points, said it was “about time” the team got a win.
“(We’re) finally on track to start a winning streak,” he said. “We all played well. We all played our hearts out on defense.”
Redshirt freshman Quinn Taylor, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, said the whole team had been “yearning for that one win.”
“We were really tired of losing,” he said.
The day before the game, Duryea said his team had been within striking distance of winning most games, but “six or eight or 10 minute” slumps have ruined his team’s chances. To fix the problem, he said his players needed to “dig down and figure out what little extra can every guy do to dig out of it.” With a 40-32 halftime lead, Duryea wanted to what he could to prevent the second-half scoring droughts that have seemed to define and plague his team this year.
“I told the coaches at halftime, ‘You’re going to see the quickest trigger ever if we don’t get off to a good start,’” he said.
It took less than two minutes for Duryea to call his promised timeout. The Lobos went on a 6-0 run to start the half, but the timeout seemed to work. The Aggies scored again, and New Mexico never got within three points of the Aggies for the rest of the game. Duryea gave senior guard Darius Perkins credit for leading the successful second-half huddle.
“He talked to everybody and said that wasn’t going to happen tonight, this streak stops right here,” Duryea said.
Minutes later, Elston Jones fired up the Aggie crowd with a big block and a steal on UNM’s Neal Cullen.
“Elston had three blocks,” Smith said. “We definitely needed that. It gave us a lot of energy. He’s normally a quiet guy, but he definitely brought energy to the group.”
The Aggies led by as many as 11 later in the half. Duryea credited the bigger lineup, which included starters Perkins, Smith, Moore, Lew Evans and Taylor, to helping with the win.
“We have deficiencies with size and depth, but I thought we had to do something to address rebounding and defense,” Duryea said.
The shift seemed to work. the Aggies outrebounded the Lobos 33-31, with 10 offensive boards. With six games left on the schedule the Aggies are now 4-8 in conference. It will be important to keep winning if the team wants a first-round bye in the come Mountain West tournament time.
“When we’re going, nobody in this league can really hang with us when we play the way we know we can play,” Smith said.
Because of a bye this weekend, the Aggies will now have eight days of rest. The next game will be at home against Colorado State Wednesday February 17.