It was the bearded one that continued his offensive onslaught of late.
With the Utah State University students billing Friday night’s men’s basketball game against San Jose State as a “Beard Out” in honor of Preston Medlin, the junior didn’t disappoint. Medlin scored a game- and season-high 25 points to keep the Aggies rolling.
USU notched its 13th straight win Friday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum with a 66-60 victory over the Western Athletic Conference foe Spartans in front of 9,191 fans. It was also the 11th straight W against SJSU (9-7, 3-2) and the 22nd in a row in Logan against the Spartans.
“I feel good and have been shooting the ball pretty well,” said Medlin, who also had a game-best five assists. “My teammates are helping me get open and I’m making some shots.”
And what about the adoration from the fans?
“I saw it on Facebook, and it feels good, obviously,” Medlin said. “It was really fun out there, and it was good to have the Spectrum back tonight. There were a lot of (the students) there tonight.”
Despite being without two starters, including the leading scorer in the WAC, the Spartans hung tough with the Aggies. Guard James Kinney, who is averaging 20.6 points per game, and forward Louis Garrett missed the game after violating team rules.
“Well, we won. That is the good news,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “I thought that San Jose State responded really well for not having a couple of their better players. Kinney is a 20 points per game guy. Their guys rallied together and played really hard and gave them a chance.”
The Aggies didn’t find out about Kinney and Garrett until just before the game started. Obviously, there had to be some adjustments by both teams.
“That was a tough loss for them,” Medlin said of Kinney missing the game. “They played great tonight without him.”
The Spartans rallied, however, and remained within striking range the entire game. A 6-0 run by the Aggies gave the hosts a little breathing room with 11:26 to play and a 44-36 lead.
“We kept it close, but we did not come here to keep it close, we came here to win,” SJSU head coach George Nessman said. “Credit to Utah State; they were very difficult to catch in the final eight minutes when they have a workable lead. ... We just couldn’t get the big defensive stop and a conversion to get it to a one-possession game.”
Spencer Butterfield gave the Aggies their largest lead of the game, 54-45, with a 3-pointer off a pass from Kyisean Reed. That trey came with 4:27 to play.
“They got up into us and pressured us a lot,” said Butterfield, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds. “We turned it over too much in the first half, but we came out in the second (half) and took care of the ball better, which made all the difference.”
Morrill agreed. USU had nine turnovers during the first 20 minutes and just four in the second half.
Taking care of the ball and Medlin scoring 16 points in the second half certainly helped.
“They did a good job of getting into us and trying to take us out of our plays,” Medlin said. “In the first half we had too many turnovers. We came in and adjusted a little bit and did a lot better in the second half of taking care of the ball.”
USU was 6 of 6 from the foul line over the final 74 seconds to seal the deal.
Joining Medlin and Butterfield in double-figure scoring were Jarred Shaw (12 points) and Reed (10). Shaw had his sixth double-double of the season, grabbing a game-best 10 rebounds.
The Spartans, who haven’t won in Logan since 1982, were led by D.J. Brown with 16 points. Chris Cunningham chipped in 15 and Xavier Jones added 14.
“I thought that our guys played with a lot of determination and a lot of tenacity, but Utah State just had a little too much for us today,” Nessman said.
The Spartans scored the first basket of the game, but the Aggies responded with six unanswered points as Butterfield had a pair of rebound buckets.
Then the visitors went on an 11-2 run. Four different SJSU players scored as the Spartans took a 13-8 lead seven minutes into the contest.
Reed triggered a 9-0 spurt by the Aggies with a bucket off the glass. Marvin Jean drilled USU’s first trey of the night, and Medlin hit a pull-up shot to give the hosts a 17-13 lead with 10:34 left in the opening half.
But the Spartans would not roll over. In fact, there were seven lead changes and two ties over the first 12-and-a-half minutes. Medlin hit another pull-up shot to give USU a 29-27 lead at the break.
It would continue to be a close game the rest of the way.
“We just relaxed in the second half and played our game,” Shaw said. “... It was a physical, scrappy game. It was just one of those games.”