LOGAN, Utah - Utah State clinched the Western Athletic Conference men's basketball title outright with an 82-62 win against Hawai'i Thursday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
USU improved to 13-1 in WAC play, winning back-to-back WAC regular-season titles after finishing in a four-way tie last season. The Aggies also improved to 26-3 overall, tying for the most wins in the country.
Hawai'i lost its second in a row and third in the last four, falling to 13-14 overall and 5-9 in WAC action.
Utah State improves to 8-4 vs. Hawai'i, including 6-1 at home, as the Aggies have won five of the last six games in the series.
USU's outright WAC championship is the Aggies' second outright regular-season league title under head coach Stew Morrill, joining the 1999-2000 squad that went 16-0 in Big West Conference play. Overall, it is the ninth time in school history that USU was won at least a share of the regular season conference championship, including the fifth in the last 10 years.
Thursday was also Utah State's 33rd-straight home win, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Kansas' 39 in a row. It was also the Aggies' 15th home WAC win in a row and 24th in the last 25 overall.
Senior forward Gary Wilkinson had the best home outing of his career with a game-high 27 points, netting 16 points in the second half. He was one of four Aggie starters in double-figures, as sophomore forward Tai Wesley added 16 points, marking the first time since Jan. 31 at Fresno State that the Wilkinson-Wesley duo each had 15 or more points, and the sixth time overall this season.
Sophomore guard Tyler Newbold had 12 points to go with a career-high tying nine rebounds, and junior guard Jared Quayle tossed in 11 points to go along with a career-high tying eight assists.
Hawai'i was led by Hiram Thompson's 16 points, while Bill Amis and Roderick Flemings added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Newbold's nine rebounds were followed by eight from Wesley and seven by Wilkinson as USU had a 36-25 rebounding advantage.
The Aggies jumped out to a 27-15 lead with 8:18 to go after a 10-0 run, capped by back-to-back layups by Wesley. Hawai'i got within nine at 31-22 on a Thompson three-pointer, but wouldn't get any closer the rest of the night, as USU took a 41-28 halftime lead, aided by an 18-0 points off turnover scoring, forcing nine UH turnovers in the first half.
USU's lead swelled to over 20 points for the first time at 58-37 on a jumper by junior guard Stavon Williams, at the 11:46 mark, followed by a Quayle jumper then another Williams bucket, capping a 13-0 spurt and giving USU a 62-37 lead. Hawai'i would cut the gap to 14 at 67-53 on a layup by Leroy Lutu with 5:48 to go. However, the Aggies regained control and the lead was quickly back to over 20 after a three-pointer from Wilkinson and then later a dunk, and USU cruised to the WAC-clinching win.
The Aggies play at Nevada on Saturday, Feb. 28, USU's final road game of the regular-season and host San Jose State on Saturday, March 7 at 7 p.m. in USU's home and regular-season finale.
Aggie basketball tickets are available online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on "tickets" in left column, or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Utah State basketball games are broadcast on KVNU (610 AM) and KLZX (95.9 FM) in Logan, Utah, KFAN (1320 AM) or ESPN Radio (1230 AM) in Salt Lake City and KLZX (105.3 FM) in Montpelier, Idaho, as well as on the internet at www.UtahStateAggies.com. Al Lewis serves as the play-by-play announcer, while Rod Tueller serves as the analyst during home games.