Smashing success: No. 25 Utah St routs NAIA school
LOGAN, Utah (AP)—Tai Wesley was a smashing success in more ways than one.
Wesley and Brian Green each scored 20 points to lead No. 25 Utah State over Montana Western 100-66 on Wednesday night in a game delayed about 50 minutes after two backboards were shattered at halftime.
Wesley, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, broke the first one when he dunked during second-half warmups.
“It was exactly the same as I always do,” Wesley said. “I dunk two times before the refs come out … and I heard this thing and looked at it and it was shattered. I felt bad. I felt like I was in trouble.”
Workers replacing the backboard then smashed the backup while trying to position it upright and attach the shot clock. While the visiting Bulldogs were jeered by the Utah State student section as they continued to warm up, a third backboard was found. The shot clock was placed on the floor near a portable unit that held up for the rest of the game, though it wobbled at times.
Nate Bendall added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Aggies (24-3), while Brady Jardine scored 11. Wesley shot 8 of 12 from the field and 3 of 4 at the free throw line. He also grabbed eight rebounds in 21 minutes.
The Bulldogs (19-8), an NAIA school, were led by Cody Thueringer, who scored 17 points. Leading scorer Brandon Brown, who was averaging 19.9 points, was held to 11 points and five assists. He scored his first points with 2:30 to play in the first half.
Utah State used the game to get ready for an ESPN BracketBuster matchup with St. Mary’s on Saturday.
“The game served its purpose,” Aggies coach Stew Morrill said. “We did not need to have two weeks with just one game. Every basketball player, if you ask them, would want to play a game, not just practice.”
St. Mary’s was the last team to beat the Aggies on their home floor, winning 68-63 on Dec. 5, 2009.
“The St. Mary’s game should be a fun challenge for us. We’ve played three Top 25 teams all on the road this year. This will be the third one,” Morrill said. “They haven’t lost a home game. It’s a challenge, but I think our guys are excited about it and looking forward to it. This game gave us a little preparation in terms of how many 3-point shots St. Mary’s will take. In that respect it gave us a little preparation.”
Utah State outscored the Bulldogs 42-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 46-27.
The Aggies, fifth in the nation in scoring defense at 58.3 points per game, led by as many as 38 late. Both teams cleared the benches early in the second half, and USU’s reserves outscored Montana Western’s 48-28.
The Aggies shot 13 of 22 on 3-pointers, while the Bulldogs were 11 of 33 from long range.
In the first half, USU had little trouble getting out to a 26-10 lead after Green and Wesley hit back-to-back 3s with 9:44 to play. Green, a reserve guard, missed his first two shots but then made his final seven attempts, including six 3-pointers, in 20 minutes.
“We are actually a well-balanced team,” Green said. “I don’t have to score for us to win, but tonight they were falling. It’s mostly rhythm and confidence to get them to go.”
USU held a 44-25 lead at halftime behind Wesley’s 14 points in 12 minutes.
“We wanted to come in tonight and not get anyone hurt,” Montana Western coach Steve Keller said. “We only played our starters for about 5 minutes in the second half because we have a big conference game on Saturday. It was great for our guys to play in a basketball environment like the Spectrum. It was fun playing here.”
Utah State has won 30 straight home games, the third-longest active streak in the nation. The Aggies have secured at least a share of the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship and can win it outright by beating Idaho on Feb. 26 in their final home game of the season.