LOGAN -- It's safe to say everyone in the Smith Spectrum suspected something was a bit strange about the Aggies' contest against Montana Tech when USU stars Kyisean Reed and Brockeith Pane did not start the game. Instead, coach Stew Morrill opted to go with E.J. Farris and redshirt freshman Ben Clifford to begin.
It only got stranger throughout the first half, when the Aggies (14-13) trailed the NAIA Orediggers (11-12) for the majority of the period before intermission. USU spent nearly seven minutes early in the second half to build a 17-4 run and defeat Montana Tech 70-58.
"Yesterday after practice I had some oral surgery and that was better than what I just saw," Morrill said, hardly recovered from the annoyance that he displayed from the bench throughout the contest. "I'm pissed, that's how I feel. Excuse the language, but we were not ready to play. Montana Tech just ran us around, made shots in the first half and made us look stupid. They only thing that we could do try and get us going was to pick up and pressure them."
Indeed, USU's full-court pressure early in the second half helped the Aggies generate enough Oredigger miscues to create enough separation from them and a team that was defeated by UVU 70-60 just the day before.
Seldom-used Igor Premasunac, who saw action in only eight games and 33 total minutes heading into Tuesday evening, entered the second stanza seconds after it began, grabbing two rebounds in four minutes.
When asked if USU overlooked the NAIA club -- and if they were still reeling from a disappointing final-minute loss to a good New Mexico State team Saturday, Preston Medlin made some acknowledgement to both realities.
"Maybe a little bit," he said. "We weren't together, weren't ourselves. Maybe we were not as prepared as we should be. We didn't come ready to play."
At least some of the starters didn't. Pane and Reed took seats because they were late to the pre-game meal, Morrill said. Pane scored 16 points and dished five assists in 30 minutes, while Reed, who came into the contest averaging 10.3 points and five rebounds per game, scored three points and grabbed two rebounds in 20 minutes.
Montana Tech had three players finish in double figures, including Adam Greger with 12, Brian Cummings with 11 and Cole Conway with 10. The Oredigger lead grew to as large as nine early in the second half, when point guard Tyree Haynie hit a 3-pointer just right of the top of the key 12 seconds into the second half
"You can make all the excuses in the world -- it is a tough game coming off of Saturday's loss -- but you are a Division I basketball team," Morrill said. "We play 31 games; you should be ready to play. It is not the NBA where you play 80 games."
The Aggies return to action at the Spectrum Saturday at 7 p.m. in a Bracketbusters game against UC Santa Barbara.