Perhaps Friday night’s game will be good preparation for Utah State.
The Aggies weathered a physical battle against Western Athletic Conference foe San Jose State and came out on top, recording a 66-60 victory in men’s basketball at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
“They were physical, they defended, that is the best San Jose State defensive team that I have seen in a number of years,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They made it hard for us, and they caused us to turn the ball over in the first half. We did a little better job in the second half, but they beat us on the boards in the second half, so they just stayed in the game the whole way.”
There weren’t a lot of big momentum swings in the contest. The Aggies (14-0, 5-0 WAC) did put together a 9-0 run in the first half, but all that did was make up for the 11-2 surge by the Spartans (9-7, 3-2). USU did have a pair of 6-0 runs — one in the first half and the other in the second — that ended up being the difference.
“We knew that if we wanted to win this game, we had to come out and play physical defense and play physical offense and run our plays better because they were getting in us and taking us out of our plays,” said Aggie guard Preston Medlin, who scored a season- and game-best 25 points. “That’s not what we want, and it is not good for us. It was a lot better in the second half, shooting the ball.”
USU made 50 percent of its shots in the second half and 47.7 percent for the game. SJSU shot 35.9 percent for the game.
Even with it being so physical, there were not a lot of fouls called. The Spartans turned to fouling at the end and had 18 for the game. The Aggies were whistled for 13 fouls.
“You have to adjust to what is happening in the game,” Morrill said. “It was a physical game. ... They didn’t toot that thing (whistle) a whole lot.”
The Aggies outrebounded the Spartans by nine over the first 20 minutes, but had nine turnovers to SJSU’s two. In the second half, USU had just four turnovers, but was outrebounded by eight.
The Spartans had 14 offensive rebounds and beat the Aggies in second chance points, 20-11.
“You look at the stats and it doesn’t seem like we played that poorly, except that they got a whole lot more shots than us, and that is a credit to them,” Morrill said. “Our percentages were pretty good, we rebounded the ball OK, especially in the first half, so we will take the win.”
The Aggie coach did not want to dwell on negatives after the game Friday. USU did win its 13th straight game and is now tied with Kansas for the second-longest active winning streak in the country. No. 2 Michigan has won 16 in a row and plays at No. 15 Ohio State today.
The USU winning streak will be put to the test next week when the Aggies go on the road and play two of the better teams in the WAC. USU takes on New Mexico State (10-8, 4-2) Thursday night and then Denver (9-7, 5-1) on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies from the Land of Enchantment dropped their first two conference games, but have won four straight. The Pioneers lost their league opener, but have won five in a row.
“We get a real taste of reality going on the road against those two teams,” Morrill said. “They are two of the better teams in the league. New Mexico State, Denver and La. Tech is the other team that is really off to a great start in our league. ... We obviously have some challenges ahead, but at this point we have done our job and got a couple of road wins and we have protected our home court in league. Now it is time to try and get better next week and see what we can do on the road.”