LOGAN – Eight different Aggies reached double figures as Utah State cruised to a 129-61 win over Eastern Oregon on Saturday afternoon at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The game closed USU’s out-of-conference schedule before returning to Mountain West competition.
“We were well prepared for that game even thinking about the break of four days for Christmas for guys,” junior Kuba Karwowski said. “Two days of practices, same mentality like for any other game. Florida was huge; it was the same mentality. Doesn’t matter who it is. We want to win.”
Normal starters Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta did not play.
The result was all but assured from the opening tip, as USU utilized a 22-2 run to open up a 39-15 margin in the first 12 minutes of the contest. The Aggies’ rebounding efforts powered the offense to a 66-point first half. The second half brought the same as the first, as USU’s size advantage continued to lord over the game to the tune of a 63-24 advantage in rebounds. Utah State also set a new school record with 36 assists in the contest.
“I loved how we really, really shared the ball,” head coach Craig Smith said. “It’s amazing how that works when you share the ball how all of a sudden you start shooting the ball a lot better… You can see our offense starting to gain some momentum here the last three or four games.”
Sophomore Brock Miller led USU’s scoring outburst with 25 points on 8-15 shooting. Sophomore Justin Bean pitched in with another double-double, scoring 16 points alongside 12 rebounds in only 18 minutes of playing time. Junior Abel Porter finished with 12 points and four assists. Senior Diogo Brito set a new career high with 11 assists, adding five points and nine rebounds. Junior Alphonso Anderson added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Freshman Trevon Dorius, in his second start of the season, ended with 12 points and eight rebounds. Freshman Sean Bairstow recorded 14 points, six rebounds and four assists while senior Roche Grootfam added a career-high 13 points off the bench.
“It starts in practice where we go at each other,” Grootfam said. “We compete every day at a high level. We go at each other and try to make each other better. Whoever’s in the game, we’re excited for one another because we know that the next guy who comes in is going to get the job done also.”
Karwowski saw his first game action since November 24 versus North Texas. The 7-foot-2 center recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists in his return from injury.
“That was my first game after two days of practices so I can still feel like I’m not into as good of shape as I’m supposed to be,” Karwowski said. “I feel better, way better than I felt even two weeks ago… Just give me some time to get back into better shape.”
The game closes out Utah State’s non-conference schedule. The Aggies stand at 13-2 on the season and 11-2 outside of the Mountain West.
“There’s a lot of things that we got better at. There’s a lot of things that we still need to improve on,” Grootfam said. “I’m happy about where we’re at but I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. That’s the most exciting thing about it is that we’ve yet to see the real Utah State men’s basketball team. We’re working on that and we’re getting better every day.”
Utah State will resume MW play on Wednesday night versus UNLV before returning home Saturday to face currently-undefeated San Diego State. The Aggies began their MW title defense in early December with two wins over San Jose State and Fresno State.
“We’re going to have a very difficult week,” coach Smith said. “At the same time, last year we won the league and we started out 1-2. I don’t want to make it more important, make it bigger than it really is. Every game truly does count the same. We just have to go out and play Aggie basketball.”
Tip-off versus the Rebels is currently set for 9:00 pm MST.