LOGAN -- They weren't as good-looking as two of their injured teammates on the bench, but Utah State gained another win in their final contest before begin WAC Tournament play next week in Las Vegas.
Ben Clifford and TeNale Roland scored career-highs with 21 and 14 points, respectively, to lead Utah State to a 71-51 victory over UTSA Saturday night. Swingmen Danny Berger and Sean Harris watched in three-piece suits while sitting next to Kyisean Reed, who spent the final home game of his career on the sideline, out for the season after undergoing surgery on an ACL torn on Jan. 21.
As the lone senior on the team, Senior Night was all Reed's, as the Aggies used a spurt in the final eight minutes to secure a blowout before Thursday's first round game against UT-Arlington.
"I'm appreciative for all the things this place has done for me," said Reed, a native of Palmdale, Calif. who came to Logan via Antelope Valley College. "I've been out there (attending games), and it's been tough. But it's still a way to support the team, so it's something I'm willing to do."
USU (21-9, 11-7 WAC) outscored UTSA (8-21, 3-14) 19-8 over the final 8:43 to bury the Roadrunners. With help from Butterfield (4-of-6) and center Matt Lopez (4-of-4), Clifford and Roland helped the Aggies to a 50 percent display from the field. They also out-rebounded UTSA 42-26. The Roadrunners also shot just 33 percent as WAC leading scorer Kannon Burrage managed just nine points on 4-of-16 shooting. A 36 percent career 3-point shooter, Burrage was just 1-of-5 from distance Saturday.
Forwards Jordan Sims and Jeromie Hill and center Larry Wilkins combined to score 15 points on just 6-of-22 shooting. But USU coach Stew Morrill said his post players -- Clifford, center Jarred Shaw (11 points, nine rebounds), Lopez and Jordan Stone -- were not successful in defending them.
He was proud of his group for winning a game that he said many were wrong in considering pointless. Heading into the contest, the Aggies were guaranteed to be the fifth seed in next week's tournament.
"You play 30 college games. It's not like the NBA," he said. "We're worn out and tired, I you can tell that, so we're trying to have short practices, trying to take some days off."
What UTSA coach Brooks Thompson didn't avoid was how his team was outrebounded by 16, including a 10-board disparity after halftime. The Roadrunners lost control late after holding the Aggies to just 8-of-22 shooting in the first half, when his team trailed 25-17.
"It was definitely a tale of two halves, to be sure," Thompson said. "The biggest thing was that they out-physicalled us. I don't think that just comes from height."
On any account, the 6-foot-11 Lopez had newfound success Saturday. His six minutes marked his second-highest in the past seven games. He didn't play in USU's 80-71 BracketBusters win over Illinois State on Feb. 23 and logged less than one minute in the Aggies' buzzer-beater loss Feb. 19 at BYU. His eight points and two blocks marked his highest tallies this season in both categories.
"He needs to gain confidence in himself," Clifford said of the LaSalle University transfer. "That will help him get over the hump."
That was Morrill's sentiment of his group entirely, given that USU dropped two road games by a combined 38 points last week at Louisiana Tech and UT-Arlington, playing three-quarters of that stretch without current leading scorer Spencer Butterfield (14 points, five assists against UTSA).
He was blunt after being asked how comforting Roland and Clifford's outlying play was to him as possible extra weapons for next week's tournament, preferring not to look ahead -- yet.
"It was just good to win some home games. I don't know what it has to do with the WAC Tournament," he said. "I've always thought it was the WAC Tournament was a whole different deal. It's a week of its own."
USU's contest against UT-Arlington game will begin at 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Sin City.