Media Credit: Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News
As I settled into my seat about 8 minutes before tip-off, I was jittery and a tad queasy. I get that way before big games, but I usually yell it out of me before the first time-out... Anyway, as I looked around, the Spectrum was WAY below capacity and it took me by surprise. I honestly thought we might sell it out, but it wasn't even close. We had over 1500 more fans on Tuesday to see the Utes game... and it wasn't Weber's fault. Their fans traveled pretty well. I mean, they seemed to have representatives in every section (I had 3 right behind me in a priority seating section). They were in the usual corner seats up high, but they were also in numbers in the Student Section and even on the FRONT ROW of the Student Section!
I'm not one to usually rip on fan support, but for a televised game, this was nothing short of embarrassing. I hope that we have blackouts for future home in-state games if this is the result! Since when were Aggie fans in the student section pacifists? What next? Zoobies on the couch? *cough*
Now to the game:
This game saw the best talent in the state go head-to-head and it lived up to its billing. Boyette for WSU has been an Aggie slayer, but going into the game I thought we had the horses to slow him down. As the box score shows, I was right. Boyette finished with 16 points, 8 in each half, on 6/10 shooting. For the most part our pressure man D denied him looks, limiting his shots to just 10. He scored easily on a couple nice set plays, fast breaks and drained 2 threes off picks. He didn't force his game, which is a credit to how saavy he is. There wasn't any more there for him.
As team stats indicated going in, despite Boyette's strong scoring presence, WSU gets a lot of help from others and they didn't disappoint. WSU shot 41% from the field while the Ags went at a 45% clip, mostly thanks to a Penigar Revival that had Aggie fans shouting praise all night. The scoring went back and forth, the largest margin by the Aggies was a short-lived 7 (demolished by back-to-back threes) and the Wildcats led once by 6, again short lived thanks to work by DP on the O-glass and old-fashioned 3-point plays.
Both teams went deep on the bench, WSU getting 8 players with double digit minutes and all but one scored. The Ags played 10 but had 8 in double-digit minutes also. Eight Aggies scored, but only DP was in double figures with his better-even-than-it-sounds 29. DP got his jumper going early and migrated his game into the the paint as the night wore on. It was clear towards the end that, if he wanted to work there, there was little WSU could do about it without doubling down and opening *big* holes in their zone D.
Both teams were effective at times inside and outside. It became, like so many Weber/Aggie games before, a matter of who would deliver down the stretch. Tonight it was the Aggies, and more specifically, Desmond Pinegar. DP only finished with 4 boards, but he was active underneath, had 2 steals and 2 assists, one coming on a nice shovel-pass to TJ to give us the late 64-62 lead. WSU tied it on Free Throws (they seemed to get to the line at very fortuitous times tonight) and then the Aggies took over with about 38 seconds left.
The Aggies ran thier offense, but didn't convert. DP hustled, fighting for a loose ball and got a whistle for the jump, giving the Aggies the ball back. The timekeeper failed to turn off (or reset, even) the shot clock as the Aggies inbounded with about :28 to go. We ran motion down to 14 seconds and called another timeout to setup the final play. A very well conceived play got the ball to DP, open, just 3-4 feet from the hoop. He dropped in his 29th point and WSU was forced to play through, having already used all their time-outs. The Aggies played excellent D and TJ unsettled the ball from Boyette as time ran down, but with about :02 left the forgotten shot-clock buzzer sounded and the Aggies began to celebrate. The WSU player that beat us last year hoisted up the potential game-winner, uncontested, as the real clock expired, but it was long.
After some debate that included the refs actually calling the Aggies back down the tunnel, the Head Ref signalled the game over and the celebration began again in earnest. A short holiday break for the Aggies will be that much sweeter with a well-deserved win lingering in the air.
I've talked a lot about DP, but let me mention a couple others. Ronnie Ross, who woke the dead Aggies on Tuesday with critical threes, went 3/4 from downtown tonight, forcing the 'Cats to respect our outside game and extend their zone past the arc. He played nice D all night and had a nice running rebound that spurred a fast-break to TJ. This is the Ross I've been hoping to see since last year when we singed M. Brown and knew he'd get back to playing the 2.
Butler's offense was missing in action tonight, but his D was solid, IMO. He blocked 2 shots, one on Boyette, that really gave the team energy.
Nelson was an absolute workhorse tonight. He gathered 10 boards while scoring 7 points and played effective D against the 'Cats big men that Puzey struggled with tonight. Harris was playing well, but he was killed by some soft calls by the refs. I'm sure he'd have seen more than 17 minutes had the fouls not piled up so quickly.
Finally, Mark Brown ran the show. His 7 points and 5 assists while only getting turned over twice are easy to overlook, if you have already forgotten what happened last year. This team is benefitting greatly from the steady presence of a true point guard. He'll get recognition when he unloads 20 on some teams this year, but his line against Boyette is resume material, IMO.
I'm glad to get the WSU jinx off our back, if only for a year. We have a history of losing all the close ones with them, so it's so much more refreshing and satisfying to play them to the wire and come out on top! Coming on the heels of a big win against Utah, this win may signify a level of maturity in this young team that the BW doesn't care to see. Winning back-to-back games in league play is critical, and were starting to show the kind of mettle and resolve it'll take to get it done.
Go Aggies! *** Merry Christmas!