LOGAN, Utah – Fresh off its heartbreaking loss to BYU last Saturday night, the Utah State men’s basketball team got back on track.
It just took the Aggies a little longer than expected.
Junior forward Justin Bean had 21 points and seven rebounds, and true freshman guard Steven Ashworth scored in double figures for the first time in his career with 15 points, as Utah State pulled away for a 90-64 victory over the College of Idaho on Tuesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
“I definitely think this was the battle that we were expecting,” said Ashworth, who also dished out a game- and career-high seven assists. “They might not be a Division I team, but they were a team that was ready. They were well-coached, and they ran their sets. Defensively, we knew that was a thing we had to get better at, we had to be a more versatile defensive team, so I think later on in that second half we really stepped it up.
“We took some pride in our defensive schemes and whatnot, and we executed what our coaches had been planning for us to do. Ultimately, it was a great team win, a great opportunity for the guys to come together. I enjoyed seeing guys like Liam McChesney, Szymon (Zapala), Matt Wickizer get out there and make some plays. It was definitely fun for us to be able to do that tonight, so hopefully we’ll be able to keep it rolling into Weber State on Saturday.”
With their win over the Yotes, the Aggies improved to 67-0 all-time against non-Division I opponents, including 30-0 against teams from the NAIA ranks.
Ricardo Time led the College of Idaho (1-2), which captured the NAIA Division II national championship a year ago, with 16 points, while Jalen Galloway added 13 and Charles Elzie III chipped in 12.
Down 44-31 with 48 seconds to go in the first half, the College of Idaho got a basket by Time to send it into the break trailing by 11. The Yotes came out of the break on fire and scored the first 12 points of the second half, capped by a Galloway 3-pointer, to take their only lead of the game, 45-44, with 17:09 to go.
“We scheduled the College of Idaho because they’re a very good non-Division I, NAIA team,” said USU assistant coach Eric Peterson. “They were No. 1 in the country last year, they’ve been a top-five team in the country for the last, maybe five years, and Colby (Blaine) has done a really good job with that program. The point of scheduling them was just that we needed a game to help us get better and develop our bench and get some guys some minutes. We played a really good team. The second half was a little tight there for a little while, but our calling card was just on the defensive end.”
The Aggies (2-3) didn’t stay down long as an old-fashioned three-point play by Bean gave the hosts a 47-45 lead with 16:21 to go. That basket ignited a 12-0 run over the next 2:38. During that stretch, the Yotes committed three turnovers and misfired on all three of their shots.
Utah State’s game-changing spurt eventually grew to 30-5, propelling the Aggies to a 74-50 lead with 8:22 remaining in the non-conference contest. USU led by as many as 27 in the second half.
“We know why Utah State is back-to-back conference champions,” Blaine said. “Those guys are tough, they play with a great culture. We appreciate their hospitality. I’m proud of our guys. We battled for 30 to 35 minutes there. We were even on the boards going into the last 10 minutes of the game, which I was proud of. Their length just wore us out.”
Sophomore guard Sean Bairstow and freshman guard Rollie Worster joined Bean and Ashworth in double-figure scoring for the Aggies with 11 points apiece. Senior forward Alphonso Anderson and sophomore center Trevin Dorius each scored nine points, while junior center Neemias Queta was two points and two rebounds shy of a double-double with eight and eight.
Utah State shot a season-high 51.7 percent from the field (30-58), including 33.3 percent from the 3-point line (4-of-12), and 86.7 percent from the free throw line (26-of-30).
Conversely, the College of Idaho shot just 38.6 percent from the field (22-of-57), but made 35.3 percent of their long-distance shots (12-of-34). The Yotes also made 88.9 percent of their free throw attempts (8-of-9).
Utah State returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 12, when the Aggies travel south to take on in-state rival Weber State at the Dee Events Center in Ogden. The game, which will be televised on KJZZ, is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m.