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Aggies gain momentum for MWC tourney in Wyoming win


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LOGAN — In a season that has been up-and-down to say the least, Utah State basketball has gotten used to the idea of moral victories — taking heart in things that can’t necessarily be quantified.

Taking then-seventh ranked San Diego State to overtime at home; narrowly losing on the road to Boise State; and picking up a redemptive win over Wyoming Wednesday, beating the Cowboys 65-54 in response to a blow-out loss at Wyoming earlier this season. The moral victory that the Aggies can take with them now is the momentum of a two-game winning streak as Utah State now prepares for the start of the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas next week.

Utah State coach Stew Morrill said the game was an example of focused effort, especially as the Aggies honored their five seniors.

“It was a hard-fought game,” said Morrill, who earned his 600th win Saturday at San Jose State. “We played a lot better in the second half. Mixing our defenses helped us. We started going after some ball screens and that helped us a little bit, and we made some more shots.

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“It was a close, hard-fought game. I'm happy for our seniors that they get to go out with a win.”

Wyoming led the Aggies at halftime, 29-26, but Utah State responded with a vengeance in the second half, outscoring the Cowboys 39-25 to take the game.

With the Mountain West tourney lurking next week, senior swingman Spencer Butterfield said the game is a confidence-builder for Utah State.

“ This is huge going into the Mountain West tournament,” said Butterfield, who scored 12 points in the game. “We've got a lot of confidence as a team and are playing really well together. I want people to think that we're really together. We love each other and love playing together.”

Butterfield also noted the effect that Senior Night had on several Aggie players.

“It's a great way to go out,” he said. “We had a lot of energy. Obviously, there are a lot of emotions going on with it being the last home game of the season, but we had a lot of players step up, and it was great to see.”

Besides Butterfield, the Aggies honored Jarred Shaw, TeNale Roland, Preston Medlin and Sean Harris.

So Utah State finished its regular season with an overall record of 17-13, including a record of 7-11 in its first season in the Mountain West. Currently, the Aggies are in ninth place in the conference, ahead of Air Force and San Jose State. However, even though Utah State is done with its conference season, the Mountain West has a series of games on Saturday, including a few matchups that could influence seeding in the conference tournament.

The Colorado State-Wyoming game has potential implications in the conference, as a Rams loss would drop them into a tie with Utah State. While the top five teams in the conference are guaranteed first-round byes, Utah State will have to win four games to win the conference tournament. As of right now, the Aggies are slotted to play Colorado State, and will likely do so regardless of the outcome of the Colorado State-Wyoming game.

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Jon Oglesby

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