Aggies reach CIT finals

Mar 25 2012 - 10:50pm

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Utah State forward Morgan Grim (21) takes a shot as Oakland center Kyle Sikora (40) defends during their CollegeInsider.com college basketball tournament game, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero)
Utah State forward Morgan Grim (21) takes a shot as Oakland center Kyle Sikora (40) defends during their CollegeInsider.com college basketball tournament game, Sunday, March 25, 2012, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/The Herald Journal, Eli Lucero)

LOGAN -- Apparently, the Aggies didn't get the memo that it would have been best to score in triple digits a month ago, when the games most mattered.

The regular season, conference play and the WAC Tournament may all be concluded, but it was Sunday evening's CollegeInsider.com Tournament semifinal where Utah State displayed their best offensive effort of the season, plastering Oakland 105-81. Led by a combined 9-for-11 effort from distance from Danny Berger and Preston Medlin, the Aggies shot a blistering 12-for-16 from the three-point line, part of a contest that saw USU shoot nearly 64 percent from the field, including a near-71 percent job in the first half. USU advances to the CIT title game against Mercer (26-11). Tip-off is Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Logan.

"Everything looks easy when you make a lot of shots, and we made a lot of shots tonight," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "Your offense always looks better when the ball is going through the hoop."

Four Aggies scored in double figures, led by Medlin's 26. The 6-4 guard also nabbed nine rebounds. After scoring just five points at halftime, Brockeith Pane finished with 20 points and 10 assists, giving him his first career double-double with one game to play in his collegiate career.

Senior forward Morgan Grim scored 18 points, while Berger scored 17. The Grizzlies were held to 36.6 percent shooting from the field as their star Reggie Hamilton, the nation's leading scorer, shot just 6-for-21.

Berger said that Hamilton and the Grizzlies may have been fatigued after talking three separate flights to get to Utah from Michigan, but the Aggies certainly were on fire the entire game.

"I was worried about getting offensive rebounds but we didn't miss much," said Berger, who said he pedaled his bike in front of Oakland University many times while serving in the Michigan Detroit LDS mission.

"We were able to string a few stops together in the second half and lower their percentage down a little bit. It was an up-tempo game; it was a fun one."

The 2,092 who attended the game might agree. Outside of limiting Oakland to below 28 percent shooting in the second half, the Aggies impressed Morrill by dishing 26 assists to just 11 turnovers.

USU started the game by converting eight of their first nine shots, including four consecutive three-pointers, in less than five minutes.

It helped open a lead that swelled to 24-12 with 12:52 left in the first half. The Grizzlies only drew within a dozen points twice the rest of the way, both within 90 seconds of each other in the first half. USU led Oakland 60-43 at ha

lftime, when they had already converted 9-of-11 3-pointers.

"Yeah, maybe we just need to play on Sunday more," Grim said when asked if the rare weekend game was the key. "I don't know. There's a good attitude with the team right now. We're practicing really hard. Pace was up and down and we were running on makes, so coach was good at keeping people fresh by keep substituting people out."

Oakland head coach Greg Kampe acknowledged USU's worse-than-normal season before describing how impressed he was with a team that Morrill said hopes receives ample support from fans on Wednesday.

"I've watched this program for a long time, so to get up close and personal was pretty amazing," Kampe said. "I can't believe they've played any better than that this year. We ran into their A-game tonight."

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