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Justin Bean leads Utah State past his hometown team to win tournament championship



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

LOGAN — Facing his childhood team, Oklahoma native Justin Bean was required to give it everything he had in order for Utah State to come out with a victory over the Sooners in the Myrtle Beach invitational championship.

And give it everything he did.

In what Aggies head coach Ryan Odom described as a "Wilt Chamberlain" like performance, Bean put up 24 points, 19 rebounds and three assists. Aided by two clutch 3-pointers by Brock Miller in the final two minutes, Bean led Utah State to a 73-70 win over Oklahoma Sunday afternoon.

The neutral court win over an Oklahoma team that began the day ranked No. 40 in the KenPom rankings could quite possibly go down as a quad one win, which would be a big addition to Utah State's NCAA Tournament resume in March.

It also caps off a tremendously successful week and a half visit to the east coast for the Aggies, who defeated Richmond in Annapolis before heading down to Conway, South Carolina, to win three straight games to improve to 4-1 on the season.

"Me, personally, I mean, I've been a Sooners fan just growing up my whole life. I grew up 10 minutes from campus," Bean said. "So this one definitely meant a lot for me to have my family there and watch in the stands. I remember my brothers and I would always play, you know act like we were the OU players and we go to all the games."

"It can make you nervous planning against a team that you love and you grew up cheering for," Odom said. "... I think what Justin did was rely on everything that he's been taught his entire career."

If there were any nerves from Bean, you couldn't tell. The senior forward — and his teammates — showed the mental toughness required to come away with the victory late. The Aggies, who trailed the majority of the second half, were down by six with four minutes remaining but continued to battle.

Bean collected a rebound off a Sooners miss and Rylan Jones made a layup on the other end. On the subsequent possession, Bean forced a steal and dished it down to Miller, who hit the layup to cut it to a 2-point game.

With 1:46 to play and the Aggies trailing by two, Bean passed it again to Miller, who drained the catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to take the lead. Jones followed it up by forcing a charge. With 30 seconds to play, Miller hit another 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 70-66 lead.

Bean iced the game with three made free throws as Utah State came away with the victory.

"Heck of a basketball game all around," Odom said. "It was a stressful game in a lot of ways, to be honest. Oklahoma's a really good team. ... And I thought the story of the game for us was just hanging in there, and hanging in there."

As a whole, the Aggies didn't shoot the ball well and finished the game 23-of-55 from the field and 7-of-26 from 3-point range — just 10%. In the second half, they were just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc before Miller hit his clutch shots.

What got it done for Utah State were the intangibles: They were aggressive going to the hoop and were rewarded with 21 free throw attempts — they made 20. And thanks to Bean's 19 boards, the Aggies outrebounded the Sooners 39-32.

"I mean, the first thing is just (Bean's) willingness to go after the ball and put his body in there," Odom said.

For the most part, the Aggies kept the Sooners in check on the defensive end, holding them to 27-of-64 shooting and 9-of-33 from 3-point range. In the half court, the Aggies managed to keep Oklahoma away from the hoop and forced them into poor shots.

Where the Aggies struggled was in transition; they'd coughed up 13 turnovers, which resulted in 18 points for Oklahoma.

Utah State led at halftime 32-30, thanks to 7 first-half points from Brandon Horvath and 9 points from Bean. But the Sooners soon took control of the game in the second half and went on a 20-11 run to lead 50-43 with 13:15 to play.

For Bean, it's a win he won't forget.

"This is one of the most iconic moments for sure in my career here at Utah State," he said. "I'll definitely take that with me. I don't take those moments for granted either. I feel like I put in a lot of work in the offseason, and I feel like that confidence is stemmed from a great coaching staff who have helped me get to where I am.

"At this point, they've helped me become a completely different player, to be honest, and so give them a lot of credit as well. And so yeah, I'm definitely gonna soak this in as much as I can."

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