LOGAN -- How long the Aggies can win more games in the ugly fashion they have been displaying remains to be seen. But Tuesday night in the Smith Spectrum, it was at least enough for USU president Stan Albrecht.
The university president spent the first half watching from the first row of the student section and mingling with the enthusiastic teenagers and twenty-somethings -- all the while passing out a slew of churros -- as the Aggies (4-4) claimed a 63-54 victory over Utah Valley (5-5) on the court.
The difference in the victory may have just been the play of swingman Danny Berger, who was in a shirt and tie on the sideline just last week, when the Aggies had their 34-game home winning streak snapped by Denver on Nov. 30. The sophomore, whose scored 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field at Pacific Saturday, scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, converting both of his long-distance attempts while notching three assists.
"I have been waiting for my chance to get to play here in front of these fans and it was amazing," Berger said. "Now I know what it feels like to play in the Spectrum."
Although the student section had previously retaliated against Albrecht and athletic director Scott Barnes for their apology letter to BYU for behavior that carried "beyond human decency" by not cheering for the first three minutes against Denver, the Spectrum enthusiasm returned again. And Albrecht only refrained from a couple of particular cheers in the first half, otherwise trying to distract free throw shooters and yelling "we were right" with the students when a shooter missed a free throw.
Sophomore guard Preston Medlin's impressive line -- 13 points, six assists, five rebounds and a steal -- were much-needed on an evening that the both the team and key individuals struggled. The Aggies committed 14 turnovers and shot just 12-of-20 from the free-throw line. USU has shot better than 70 percent from the charity stripe just twice in eight games.
Star guard Brockeith Pane continued a major shooting slump that has become a trend so far this season, going just 3-of-11 for 9 points along with tallying as many turnovers as assists (2). Fellow senior Morgan Grim also shot just 2-of-7 from the field. But a lead that grew as high as 15 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half never completely faded, although the Wolverines stayed within single digits for nearly the last 17 minutes of the contest. While Berger and Medlin helped offset Pane's shooting woes, forward Kyisean Reed contributed in light of Grim's off-night in the post, scoring 11 points on 5-7 shooting from the field while nabbing six rebounds.
"We needed a win so badly for our confidence, and we got it, so it's something we can build on and get better," said Aggies coach Stew Morrill. "We got stymied on offense sometimes and we have got to develop more weapons."
Morrill made an attempt by granting freshman center Jordan Stone his first career start. However, Morrill did not assure that he was done tinkering with the lineup. The 14th-year USU coach has organized seven different starting lineups in eight games.
"Nobody is part of the rotation. The guys who will play will play," he said.
For UVU coach Dick Hunsaker, it was a matter of his team's slow start. The Wolverines were 0-of-8 from the floor with three turnovers in the first six minutes of the contest to dig themselves a 9-1 hole.
"Obviously, you don't want to start anywhere in the hole and that was a credit to them and our inability to execute on the offensive end," Hunsaker said. "I give them credit for a game they thought they needed. They had to have it, and they were successful."
A certain sophomore included.
"Heck, he hasn't played in years," Morrill said of Berger, who returned from LDS missionary service in August. "It's not like he hasn't played since last year. The reason we brought him off of his redshirt is for what you saw tonight."