Ags rebound nicely in home opener

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LOGAN -- After playing its first three games on the road, losing the final two by a total of four points, Utah State (2-2) returned to the friendly confines of the Spectrum. Backed by thousands of blue-clad Aggie fans, USU jumped on top of the visiting Idaho State Bengals (1-4) early and rolled to an easy victory, 77-44.

The Aggies were averaging nearly 20 turnovers and only 10 assists coming into the matchup, but against the Bengals they got back to basics. USU tallied a season-high 19 assists and a season-low nine turnovers in their best showing of the season.

"I was awfully pleased with our effort tonight," said USU head coach Stew Morrill. "We had good intensity coming off of a couple of heartbreaking road losses. It could have been a situation where we were a little down in the dumps, I told them that would be unacceptable. I told them we needed some good intensity and we did that for the most part."

Junior guard Pooh Williams also returned to the starting lineup after missing the first two games and playing minimally in the third after recovering from foot surgery. The athletic Williams tallied eight points in 19 minutes of action, including two old-fashioned 3-point plays.

"I just found out this morning, coach came in to me and said he wanted me to start," Williams said. "It is good to be back, it is always hard having only one practice and trying to play on the road like last game. I got a couple more practices in and come out in front of the home crowd and things came to life."

Leading the Aggies was fellow junior Tai Wesley. The forward connected on 8-of-11 shots and was a perfect 3-of-3 from the foul line as he finished with a game-high 19 points. Wesley also added five rebounds, four assists and the play of the night.

With nine minutes remaining in the first half, Wesley beat his defender, drove down the baseline and for a thunderous one-handed dunk - posterizing Bengal forward Demetrius Monroe in the process.

Wesley's dunk was part of an 18-2 run that put the home team in charge for good. Junior guard Brian Green was also a factor in the first half as he broke out of his season-long shooting slump. Green connected on three 3-pointers during the run and finished with a season-high 12 points.

"A lot of guys did a lot of good things, it was nice to get a chance to get everyone some time," Morrill said. "Defensively, we played solid. Idaho State just got off to a bad start and had a hard time recovering. They are a better team than they played tonight."

When the dust settled at halftime, the Aggies held a commanding 40-16 lead. USU was aided by a stifling defense that held the Bengals to 30 percent shooting in the first period, including forcing the Bengals to go 0-of-7 from beyond the arc.

In the second half, USU made what may be its biggest growth of the young season. After having second-half drop offs in each of their first three games, the Aggies maintained their tenacity and never let the Bengals put together a run.

The Aggies built upon their first half momentum, eventually leading by as many as 38 points, 74-36, when sophomore Modou Niang hit a layup with 4:16 remaining in the game.

USU will remain home as they face in-state foe Southern Utah Saturday in a final tune-up before home games against rival BYU and fellow mid-major Saint Mary's.

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