Media Credit: Tom Smart/Deseret News
Thanks to Vadryn for his game view contributions!
In a game that the Aggies desperately needed to right a severely listing ship, Stew and his players stepped up to the challenge and delivered in Logan.
The Aggies, winners of three straight against the U and four of the last five, didn't get things going right away. After opening the game with a bucket from Puzey, the Ags let the U roll of the next 11 points to fall behind early. Penigar, who had defensive responsibility on the first 6 points the U scored, found himself on the bench only a couple minutes into the game. Nelson replaced him, and shortly thereafter, the unlikely hero Ronnie Ross stepped up and nailed back-to-back threes to start a 17-3 Aggie run.
From that point on, the Aggies simply outplayed the U. If it wasn't for a nice display of 3-point shooting by the U, and by Nick Jacobsen in particular, the game might have got ugly. Consistant 3's kept the U within range and allowed them to cut into the 9 point lead with a couple minutes to play. At about the 3:30 mark, Jacosen hit a three, the Ags had a turnover and gave up a fastbreak bucket to cut the lead to 4... and the game was on.
Despite the officials giving th U generous oppertunities, they failed to convert on several trips and Mark Brown cooly stepped to the free-throw line and put the Utes away. Final Score: USU 59 - UofU 54
Game Notes: I think it was Channel two that whined about the Free Throw despairity, saying as they closed, "that was the game" as if to say the Aggies got homered "BYU style" to a win. The truth? Total fouls was UofU 17, USU 14. That's pretty close, and when you consider that the U hucked up 11 more threes than the Aggies, it becomes simplistically clear. The Aggies went inside for their scoring while the U was content to hang outside and shoot 17 threes. BTW, no one on either team dealt with any significant foul trouble.
I thought Butler was robbed of his flying layup late in the game after his man fell down. The defender turfed it beyond the arc and Butler immediately drove for the basket. The replay clearly showed that the Ute help defender was still moving in under Butler (sideways, no less!) but Butler got the offesnive foul and it was a big boost to the Utes chances late in the game.
If the U fans want to complain about the refs, maybe they can discuss the 5+ walks that weren't called on the team in red. Finally their PG took a stutter-hop between the circles that the stripes could no longer ignore, breaking a long drought of uncalled walks. The U could have had nearly 20 turnovers had the refs been more present in the game. As a whole, I thought it was an average called game.
Player Breakdown and Comments:
Penigar, who had the defensive lapses I mentioned early, made a complete 180 and got into the game with defensive effort and rebounding. His first score came off the O-glass and became a 3 point play when he hit the free throw. *THIS* is the DP we need. DP led the Aggies with 7 boards, had 13 points, at least 5 of which came off offensive rebounds. He drew a charge and had 3 steals, one of which he converted on the other end with a flying hammer dunk that made all the highlights at 10. Penigar's performance got him KVNU's POG award. DP simply has to much game to sit outside and take contested 18 footers, and last night he showed what he could do.
My POG was Mark Brown. Mark was cool and composed all night. He led the Aggies with 15 points and showed Aggie fans (finally) what the folks in Hawai'i had seen a couple weeks ago. He quietly took over the game and almost silently killed the Utes. MB hit some nice shots in the 1st half that sparked our 9 point halftime lead. Fouled on a 3-pointer, he calmly sank all three. Late in the game he converted repeatedly at the line, sinking 9/9 on the night. Every last one was dead-center. MB was on the KVNU post-game and Al mentioned his upcoming match-up with Boyette. Brown was unconcerned so Al proceeded to outline how Boyette had single-handedly dropped the Aggies last year. Brown said he'd be looking forward to it. Given last night, I'm thinking that Mark Brown is going to be up to the challenge.
Other people who played well? I want to talk about the rest of our front line. Harris, Puzey and Nelson, all of whom gave up height to a lanky Ute squad, held their own pretty well. Their defense was tenacious and smart. On 2 occasions Harris came up with steals simply by his fundamentally sound defense. The play was ran to break the D down and Harris stayed home and took the ball. Frost and Koford are really tall, but they never once out-muscled our big-men for postion and the small rebounding edge for the Utes (25-21) was acceptable, IMO. I don't have a points in the paint stat, but I know we beat them there despite their size.
Evans, TJ, Ross, Butler and Patton all played well, though Ross was the only one to post it in the box score (8 points). Hopefully this is a sign that Ross is coming out of his slump and will give us some additional scoring that the team really needs. We saw hints of this last year... I hope we see a lot more. Butler and Penigar hit some nice, difficult clutch shots down the stretch, showing that this team has at leat 2 players that, if needed, can break their guy down and score. What a luxury!
The youth of the U showed, especially late as they made some critical turnovers. The Aggie D was hopping and the crowd was loud and the combo managed to rattle some Ute players who made some dumb mistakes.
The bottom line? Right now, as was shown last night, the Aggies are a better team than the Utes. Now it's time for some payback against Weber. This is gonna be fun!