USU steals win over Northeastern, 56-54

By Weston Mangum Utah State edged the Northeastern Huskies Saturday night in the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum, as they narrowly escaped with a win by a score of 56-54. “We got lucky, but we got out of there with a win,” senior forward Tai Wesley said following the game. “… Our team had an off night, and we were able to pull out the victory so we were happy with that.” It may not have been a beautiful game for the the Aggies, but a win is a win. It was an all-out defensive struggle, as both teams made 38% of their field goals. Free-throw shooting was also not ideal for Utah State, as they ended up shooting 62% from the charity stripe, including some key misses in the final minutes of the game. The Aggies were grateful to escape with a victory, and they will look to learn a lesson from this game. “Sometimes, maybe you can learn a little more from these games if you are fortunate to win than if you get beat,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “We have a long way to go before we are a good basketball team. A long way to go.” The main difference and deciding factor in the game came down to what was later referred to by Coach Morrill as a “lucky play.” With 4:02 remaining in the game and the Aggies trailing 44-48, Pooh Williams attempted an open three-pointer. His shot missed, and the ball came off of the rim favorably, ending up in Tai Wesley’s lap. Wesley put the offensive rebound in the basket, and in doing so was fouled. The team-leader, who finished the game with 14 points and eight rebounds, sunk the ensuing free-throw to finish off a three-point play and pull his team within one point of the Huskies. Wesley was not done performing in the clutch, however, as he would score four more points and deliver a crucial assist to Brady Jardine in the final three minutes of the game. With 1:05 on the clock, and his team trailing 51-52, Wesley found himself double-teamed by the Northeastern defenders on the low post. He made a nice pass to a wide-open Jardine under the basket, and the junior forward from Twin Falls, Idaho was able to put the ball in the hole for what would prove to be the deciding basket. Following the lay-up by Jardine, who had his second straight double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, USU came up with a key stop in denying a three-point basket to Husky point guard Chaisson Allen. Tyler Newbold corralled the rebound for the Aggies, and the teams traded free-throws before reaching the end result. The win was full of redemption, as USU lost on the road last year to Northeastern. The Aggies were forced to prepare for the game on short-notice, as they had essentially one day of practice after taking Thanksgiving off following a win over Utah on Wednesday. Northeastern came into the game with a full week of preparation for the Aggies, and it showed. They were able to keep the Aggies out of rhythm offensively with their full-court defense, and Northeastern was also able to find success on offense through their penetration game. Chaisson Allen, who notched a game high 18 points and seven assists in the losing effort, was a tough match-up for the Aggie defense. Allen was able to drive into the lane and either score or dish the ball out to open three-point shooters, as USU was forced to over-rotate in an attempt to stop Allen. “We were just trying to contain him,” USU point guard Brockieth Pane said. “It was kind of hard to contain him because you have to help on the drive, which leaves their shooters open… When we would defend the drive, they would kick it out and hit threes.” Pane was able to rebound from a rough outing against Utah, as he scored 13 points and dished out two assists. The junior from Dallas, Texas also played well on the defensive end, as he played hard defense on Allen and also came up with a steal. The back-up point guard position was also a point of emphasis, as EJ Farris saw his first significant minutes of the season. Farris played for five minutes and scored an efficient five points, on 1-1 shooting from three-point land and 2-2 from the free-throw line. The Aggies will now prepare for a tough road stretch, as they will travel to Denver University next Wednesday, followed by Georgetown on Saturday. USU’s next home game will come on December 7th, as Long Beach State will come into Logan. Tip-off is slated for 7 PM.

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