LOGAN -- A star went down, but thanks to some bench players, the Aggies weren’t out.
Despite losing senior Brady Jardine to a foot injury in the game’s first few minutes and trailing by as much as seven points early in the second half, Utah State (2-1) rallied to a 65-62 win over Southern Utah (3-2) Saturday night in the Spectrum. The victory was possible behind timely play from posts Kyisean Reed and Jordan Stone and swingman Steven Thornton. Their play was especially appreciated on a night that the Aggies’ second star, point guard Brockeith Pane, shot just 5-16 from the field, and a third senior, Morgan Grim, was limited to 11 second-half minutes after picking up three fouls in just more than one minute of play.
The severity of Jardine’s foot issue has yet to be released.
“We are not going to feel bad about a win, that’s the first thing,” said USU head coach Stew Morrill. “Obviously, we are a long ways away from being a very good basketball team and that is what I have been saying for a while. We have a lot of new people and some guys that are trying to find their way. They found a way and made some plays.”
Count Reed, Stone and Thornton at the top of that list. Reed scored 13 points, including three thunderous dunks, to revitalize the Spectrum crowd as a part of an 11-2 run that gave the Aggies their largest lead at 53-45 with 5:14 left in the game. After eight first-half turnovers, USU was also mistake-free after intermission.
“I’m sure Coach (Morrill) will be happy with us about that tomorrow,” said Thornton, who scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. “We just made smarter passes with smarter plays. I like to rebound because that’s how I score.”
Stone’s five points, five rebounds and a block propelled the Aggies to a 9-3 run in the four second-half minutes he played. It was a much-needed boost for USU after Reed also registered a third foul with more than eight minutes left in the first half alone.
“I just needed to know the refs,” Reed said. “Some don’t let you hand-check. We got (the run) when we needed it. I’ll try to build on it.”
Reed, who did not score in the Aggies’ first two games against BYU and Weber State, said his three momentum-changing throw-downs had nothing to do with a personal emphasis to get the crowd even more involved.
“I’ve been trying to finish better,” Reed said. “The first couple of games I’ve been finishing soft.”
Though Pane’s runner gave the Aggies the largest lead, the Thunderbirds weren’t done. Back-to-back three-pointers, followed by two free-throw conversions, from forward Jackson Stevenett helped SUU make it a one-possession game on three separate occasions in just more than the final minute. A three-pointer from guard Ray Jones, Jr. cut the lead to 61-60 with 31 seconds left before Morgan Grim converted two free-throws off a flagrant call after the Aggies had broken a full-court press. Two Damon Heuir free throws preceded a 1-2 effort from Pane from the charity stripe, giving the Thunderbirds an attempt to tie the game, down 65-62 with 4.8 seconds to play. But a fading three-point attempt from Wade Collie—who was held scoreless in the first half after tallying 10 first-half points—drew air.
“It was a lot of fun, but it would have been a lot more fun if we’d gotten four more points,” SUU assistant coach Ron Carling said. “I’ve got to give Coach Reid some credit. There aren’t many teams who are willing to come up and play in here. That’s why they have a 34-game winning streak going. At least we had enough nerve to come up here and battle. It’s really a disappointing loss for our kids because we had a chance.”
The Aggies resume play at Texas A&M Corpus-Christi Tuesday at 6 p.m.
* MONTANA STATE 70, UTAH 64: At Salt Lake City, Christian Moon was in the right place twice for "game-changers" in the final minutes.
"Our coach likes to talk about game-changers. It's who will make the big plays when they matter most," said Moon, who made a key steal and 3-point shot for Montana State to seal a win over Utah.
Utah (1-2) was trailing 61-59, but had possession when Moon made a steal and connected on a 3-pointer near the end of the shot clock to give MSU its first victory against Utah since 1937.
"We went to a late shot clock situation and my teammate found me at the exact moment I needed it. Fortunately, I knocked it down," Moon said.
Rod Singleton scored 18 points, Tre Johnson had 15 points and Mohammed Fall added 12 to help the Bobcats (2-1) overcome 12 for 25 shooting from the free throw line.
"I can't remember the last time I scored this many points. I honestly get more joy from passing the ball," said Singleton, who had the most points Saturday since scoring 20 points on Nov. 14, 2010 against Central Michigan.
Senior guard Josh Watkins, who has been the Utes' top scorer in all three games, had 22 points but committed seven turnovers.
"We need our senior to take better care of the ball," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.
When the Utes had the ball and their final chance for a tie game, Moon harassed Watkins into a turnover. On the other end, Moon took a pass from Jamie Stewart and drained a shot from the top of the key for a 64-59 lead.
"Our execution was good the last two or three minutes of the game. We shared the basketball and when Moon hit the 3, it was a really nice pass," said MSU coach Brad Muse, who was an assistant coach for Krystkowiak at Montana from 2004-06.
Chris Hines missed a 3-point attempt for Utah and Watkins committed an intentional foul out of frustration. Stewart made two free throws to put the game out of reach.
After failing to take advantage of opportunities in their opener against another Pac-12 opponent in a 78-72 loss to Arizona State, the Bobcats started fast in this one.
Montana State led 9-0 immediately out of the gate, predicated by hot shooting.
Hines, who is suffering through a rib injury, scored all 10 of his points in a five-minute span to help Utah tie the game.
The Bobcats shot 52 percent from the field and scored 19 points off Utah's 14 turnovers. They also held the Utes without a single fast-break basket.
Cedric Martin had 11 points and Jason Washburn had 10 points and nine rebounds for Utah.
* NO. 2 KENTUCKY 85, PENN STATE 47: At Uncasville, Conn., Doron Lamb had 26 points and No. 2 Kentucky routed Penn State in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament.
Kyle Wiltjer added 19 points and Terrence Jones had 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists for Kentucky (3-0). Tim Frazier had 11 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead Penn State (3-1).
* NO. 5 SYRACUSE 92, COLGATE 47: At Syracuse, N.Y., playing for the first time since an assistant coach was accused of sex abuse, Syracuse (4-0) romped to an easy win against Colgate.
* NO. 8 LOUISVILLE 69, BUTLER 53: At Indianapolis, Kyle Kuric hit two 3-pointers in the final 5 minutes and finished with 17 points to help Louisville (3-0) hand Butler (1-2) a rare defeat at home.
* NO. 14 WISCONSIN 69, WOFFORD 33: At Madison, Wis., Josh Gasser scored 16 points and Wisconsin (3-0) finished the first half on a 19-2 run to take control against Wofford in the first round of the Chicago Invitational.