Utah State tops Weber State 77-65 in season opener

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LOGAN -- It was the first half of the first game of his senior season, and Tai Wesley wasn't pleased.

The Utah State forward made just three shots and rebounded one ball while getting into early foul trouble in the first 20 minutes of his team's season opener against Weber State on Saturday night. At halftime, he realized it was time to play with some urgency.

"It's the first game of your senior year, first game that counts and the first half was awful," Wesley said. "You can respond two ways; you can come out and keep playing awful or you can play better. That's what I decided to do (play better) and everyone else did, too."

Did they ever.

The Aggies shot 58.6 percent in the second half of their 77-65 win over the Wildcats in the Spectrum. They took control of the game by going on a breathtaking 17-0 run that gave them a commanding 54-45 lead midway through the second half.

Wesley sparked the game-changing spurt. He did it innocently enough by making a couple of free throws after Utah State fell behind 45-37. He converted a three-point play, and then got plenty of help from teammates such as Brockeith Pane, Tyler Newbold and Morgan Grim to put away the Wildcats.

"Our offensive game in the second half was solid," Wesley said. "We came out and we knew what we needed to do and we got things done."

Pane showed that he's going to be a force in his first game as an Aggie. He gave Utah State its first lead with a layup to make it 46-45, and he finished with 23 points.

Wesley had 19 points and nine rebounds.

Weber State guard Damian Lillard led all scorers with 28 points, and he sparked the Wildcats to their eight-point lead early in the second half. Aggies coach Stew Morrill, however, made a key defensive adjustment, putting Newbold on Lillard. Lillard and the rest of the Wildcats didn't score for nearly six minutes after the switch.

When it was suggested that Newbold shut Lillard down, Morrill didn't necessarily agree but he credited his player.

"We shut him down for 28 didn't we?" Morrill said. "Tyler is a good defender. One thing we know is he's going to try like crazy. I thought he did a solid job out there."

Newbold guarded Lillard throughout Utah State's 17-0 run.

"Tyler Newbold did an awesome job on him," Wesley said. "He contained him. I mean, you can't really stop a guy like Damian Lillard, you kind of have to contain him. Tyler Newbold did a good job of that."

Grim provided the Aggies with some quality minutes off the bench in his first game at Utah State. He played 22 minutes and had nine points and seven rebounds.

"I was really pleased to see him stick his nose in there and play good basketball," Morrill said.

The Wildcats made it close later in the second half, getting within 63-59 after a 6-0 mini-run with 4:46 left in the game. Wesley, Newbold and Pane, however, each made a shot to put the Aggies up double digits and put the game away.

"This is a team that you cannot hold down forever," Weber State coach Randy Rahe said of the Aggies. "I thought we hung in there and fought hard. Normally when Utah State makes a run in the second half they pull away, but I felt like we hung with them and fought until the end."

E-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

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