LOGAN – Not great, but good enough.
A key 9-0 run helped Utah State run away from North Carolina A&T in the second half en route to an 81-54 victory on Friday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aggies ended the night with 22 total assists on 29 made field goals, but also 15 turnovers.
“A game that went how I felt it could go. (NC A&T) has a way of making the game kind of get ugly,” USU head coach Craig Smith said. “It was just kind of one of those nights where I thought we were trying hard but not a lot of things went the way we wanted them to or anticipated to. Some nights you have those nights… It was one of those games though, but at the end of the day, we shoot 55 percent to their 35 percent and find a way to win at home.”
Through the first four minutes, it seemed the Aggies were on the verge of yet another quick route with a 12-2 run to open the contest. NC A&T responded with a 9-1 run of their own to tighten the gap to 13-11. USU quickly reasserted dominance with a 13-2 run to again push the lead back into double-digits. A persistent NC A&T squad fought to trim the lead to 28-20 with 4:27 before a 10-3 run by Utah State put the halftime score at 38-23.
“It was a tough game. They came out hard,” junior Alphonso Anderson said. “North Carolina A&T was a good team. We started off, we had moments where we turned the ball over, and that’s what (NC A&T) likes to do. But after we buckled down, we kind of figured it out and we got the ball rolling.”
With an opportunity to put the game away to start the second half, USU started the second stanza ice-cold from the field by making only one field goal in the first five minutes as NC A&T trimmed the deficit to 42-36 with 14:03 remaining. As they had all game, the Aggies immediately responded, this time by feasting at the rim. Anderson, sophomore Justin Bean, and senior Diogo Brito all contributed shots at the rim to propel USU on the essential 9-0 run to reclaim control of the game. The home Aggies held NC A&T at bay through the remainder of the contest, gradually extending the lead until the final buzzer. Over the final 14 minutes, USU outscored NC A&T 39-18.
“I thought in the first half, we had a couple of stretches where we could have extended the lead,” Bean said. “But in that second half, when we had that lineup of small-ball creating mismatches of just scoring at will, that really helped us to extend our lead.”
Anderson led the Aggies in scoring with 21 points on 6-9 shooting, becoming the fourth different player to lead the team in scoring through the first four games of the season.
“When we have all the different guys that can do so many different things, it certainly opens up the floor and makes it much more difficult for a scouting report,” coach Smith said, “and our guys I think are genuinely happy for one another that way. As a coach, you can do a lot of different things. We thought coming into the year that we’d have a lot of versatility with this team and I think it’s showing with some of the stuff we can do on the floor but being able to attack teams in different ways than we were able to do that last year.”
Anderson added six rebounds and three assists to his final totals. Bean earned his second double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Brock Miller chased his 27-point outing on Tuesday night with a 11-point effort along with three rebounds and four assists. Seniors Sam Merrill and Brito opted for more all-around efforts, combining for 19 points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
“At end of the day, we just care what it says by our logo,” Bean said. “It’s all team ball and whoever scores, I mean, Sam (Merrill) could probably shoot every possession if he wanted to and get good looks, but he’s a team guy and whatever the best option is on offense, that’s what we’re going with.”
With the win, Utah State moved to 4-0 on the season with an average margin of victory of 32.75 points per game. The Aggies will return to the Spectrum on Monday night to face UTSA. Tip-off is currently scheduled for 7 pm MST.