LOGAN -- As close of friends as Weber State coach Randy Rahe and Utah State coach Stew Morrill are, their teams were as close for much of Saturday's in-state rivalry game.
Down the stretch, free throws made the difference as USU pulled away with a 65-55 win over WSU at the Smith Spectrum.
Junior guard Preston Medlin led the way with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Aggies while junior center Jarred Shaw added a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double and Ben Clifford contributed 11 off the bench in a game featuring 24 lead changes and 16 ties.
Neither team lead by more than two points from the 8:43 mark in the first half until Medlin hit a pair of free throws with 5:56 left in the game to give Utah State a three-point advantage. The Wildcats tied it 53-all with exactly five minutes to go, but the Aggies piled up defensive stops and trips to the line the rest of the way to finish it off.
"That was exactly what we expected," Morrill said. "That's the game we generally have with Weber State. It's knock-down, drag-out, tough to score."
And Utah State is tough to beat in those types of games, winning 115 of its last 120 games while holding an opponent under 60 points.
USU has also won 27 straight in the Spectrum against in-state rivals and 11 of 13 versus WSU.
Utah State endured a long stretch without a field goal from Medlin's layup to tie it at 40-all with 11:54 left in the second half to Danny Berger's layup with 6:26 to go, but held Weber State to a longer dry spell. The Wildcats shot 34.0 percent from the field and got their last field goal of the game with 7:31 left as both teams went parading to the free throw stripe.
Utah State made 22 of 32 (68.8 percent) from the line, while Weber State was just 16 of 29 (55.2 percent).
"They made free throws and we missed, that's basically what it comes down to," Rahe said. "I thought we put ourselves in a great position, I was really proud of our kids, our guys fought like crazy. I thought they carried out the game plan really well. We were going to try to pressure them, try to get physical with them -- maybe too physical because we put them to the line too many times. Our guys did exactly what we wanted them to do. With five minutes to go, it's a tie game and we were right there."
Junior forward Davion Berry was the only Weber State player to score double figures with 11 points but went 0 for 6 from 3-point range as WSU combined to hit just 3 of 13 from deep (23.1 percent). Jordan Richardson had nine points and Frank Otis added eight for the Wildcats, who were outrebounded 43-30 by the Aggies.
"We missed 13 free throws," Berry said. "We fought but all the credit goes to them. They played good down the stretch and we couldn't execute down the stretch."
Weber State and Utah State shadow-boxed for the final eight minutes of the first half, trading leads on seven consecutive baskets before Shaw hit back-to-back jumpers to tie it.
James Hajek answered in the paint to give WSU a two-point advantage, but Medlin and TeNale Roland each made a free throw and Berry's long 3 at the buzzer missed the mark to send it to halftime tied 28-all.
The intensity continued well into the second half, with each team taking turns leading by a bucket until the final five minutes.
"That's a good Weber State team," Morrill said. They're going to be right there in the Big Sky Conference. That league is a lot better than people know. I spent a lot of time there. Randy does a great job. We feel fortunate to win."