Kyisean Reed threw down a couple of nasty dunks Saturday night, and the Aggies rolled to another home tournament title.
The Utah State men’s basketball team captured the World Vision Basketball Challenge, sponsored by Gossner Foods Inc., with a 70-58 victory against Southern Illinois in front of 7,919 fans at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. In the process, the Aggies (9-1) improved their winning streak to eight.
Reed scored 21 points on 7 of 12 shooting to lead USU and was named the MVP of the three-day event.
“I just try to bring energy,” Reed said. “... They were giving me a lot of one-on-one, so I took my time and made my shots.”
The lone senior on the Aggie team ignited the crowd several times with his high-flying dunks. He also helped the team shoot a season-best 60 percent from the floor for the game.
“He’s been a whole different guy this year,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said of Reed. “He’s just playing his tail off. He is much more physical, much more active, doesn’t have the periods where he is just out there. He is doing well.”
Reed even played some time at the three. Spencer Butterfield was not feeling well and couldn’t go. Marvin Jean started, but at times Reed moved from power forward to wing.
“I was just taking my time,” Reed said. “They left (my defender) on an island, and I was able to take advantage of that.”
And what about being named MVP?
“It is really not just my award,” Reed said. “It is my teammates’ award, as well, because they had a big part of my success.”
Morrill was pleased with how his team reacted with Butterfield being out. Point guard TeNale Roland played some shooting guard, and of course Reed played wing.
Nursing a five-point lead early in the second half, Preston Medlin was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Medlin, who was named to the all-tournament team, sank all free throws to give the hosts some breathing room. The three foul shots were the start of an 11-0 run.
Matt Lopez added a foul shot and Reed backed his way in for a bucket. Jean came up with a steal and hit a long jumper to keep the momentum going.
“The past couple of weeks, my confidence has boosted,” said Jean, who had eight points. “I just need to keep it going, keep it rolling. ... I just tried to make the best of it. I had a good time starting.”
Reed capped the run with a three-point play to give USU its largest lead of the game, 52-36, with 12:25 to play. The Salukis (7-4) went nearly seven minutes between field goals.
Southern Illinois would get within 10 on three occasions, but could never make a real threat down the stretch.
“This was just a grind-it-out, physical affair between two pretty tired teams,” Morrill said. “... Southern Illinois is well coached; they’re rugged. They’re undersized, but they give you problems with their athleticism.”
Medlin joined Reed in double-figure scoring for the Aggies with 16 points. Marcel Davis chipped in nine.
The Salukis were led by Desmar Jackson, who was named to the all-tournament team, with a game and tournament-high 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting, which included 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. Jackson also grabbed a game-high six rebounds. Jeff Early added 10 points.
“It’s just about the product of our size,” Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson said. “In all honesty, when I went into the locker room, I thought we played pretty hard.”
USU opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers and then went on a 13-4 run to build a 21-12 lead midway through the opening half. Five different Aggies scored during the surge.
A Reed drive to the hoop and slam ignited a 9-2 run for the hosts. Jean drilled a 3-pointer to cap the run and give the Aggies their largest lead of the first 20 minutes, 33-21, with 2:20 left before intermission.
The Salukis didn’t roll over, however. They put together six straight points to get back in the game. USU took a 35-27 lead into halftime.
There was no letdown in the second half by the Aggies.
“It was a good two halves for us,” Medlin said. “It was good for us to play a complete game. We knew they were a good team, so we had to put two good halves together and we did that.”
The Aggie coach had similar thoughts.
“We’ll feel good about getting the win, winning the tournament and going into Christmas break on a good note,” Morrill said. “... Having Kyisean have a big game and Preston have two really good games in a row gave us enough to get the win. We’ll take it.”
The Aggies will now take a few days off for Christmas. They open league play next weekend on the road at UTSA.