Utah State hosts St. Mary's and its high-powered offense

Utah State hosts St. Mary's and its high-powered offense

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LOGAN -- Utah State (4-2) will be looking for redemption Saturday night in the fourth game of their five-game home stand against the St. Mary's Gaels (5-1). The Aggies lost to the Gaels on the road last year 75-64 in an ESPNU BracketBuster Game.

The Aggies are riding a three-game winning streak since starting the season 1-2.

Wednesday night the Aggies defeated the BYU Cougars, 71-61. Aggie senior guard Jared Quayle scored a team 22 points and pulled down five rebounds. Junior forward Tai Wesley recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette scored 15 points, but on5-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. Senior forward Jonathan Tavernari only managed four points on the night, but did finish with eight rebounds. Senior center Chris Miles chipped in 11 points and pulled down five rebounds.

The Cougars shot 46.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half but only led by three going into intermission, which turned out to be crucial to Utah State's comeback. The Aggies came out of the second half and used an 8-4 run to take the lead and the Aggies never trailed for the rest of the game.

Aggie Head Coach Stew Morrill said the team would need to matchup with BYU and not let them get fast-break points. BYU's bread-and-butter is scoring before their opponent gets set defensively. Utah State did not allow any Cougar points off the break.

"We did a much better job of taking care of the ball, which allowed us to get our defense set," said Morrill.

Aggie junior forward Pooh Williams only finished with four points and did not score as much as he has his last two outings, but Williams' effectiveness showed up in his defense against Fredette.

Morrill gives Williams credit for holding BYU's leading scorer in check, especially in the second half. Fredette only scored four points while he was guarded by Williams.

"I thought we played dang good defense the whole game," said Morrill," in the second half we hunkered down and played some really good defense."

St Mary's defeated the San Jose State Spartans Monday night on the road, 78-71. Monday night's road game was the first of a three-game road trip for the Gaels. St. Mary's trailed at half 45-33, but opened the second half with a 21-4 run to take the lead.

The Spartans fought back and regained the lead, but senior guard Wayne Hunter hit a 3-point shot to put the Gaels up for good. Hunter finished with 16 points and three rebounds. Junior guard Mickey McConnell led the Gaels with 19 points and dished out eight assists.

In last year's meeting between the Aggies and Gaels, St. Mary's shot on amazing 51.9 percent from the field and Utah State could not keep up with the pace. Quayle led the Aggies with 22 points and four assists. Then Aggie senior Gary Wilkinson chipped in 16 of his own.

Stavon Williams hit a jump shot to tie the game at 12 all with 12:33 remaining in the first half. The Aggies were never able to gain the lead the rest of the game. Quayle hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to three with 2:06 left in regulation but that would be the closest the Aggies would come to victory.

McConnell scored 22 points and senior center Omar Samhan chipped in 17. The Gaels offense went into over-drive in the second half hitting 55 percent of their shots.

Coach Morrill said that St. Mary's is so well-rounded that it creates a defensive nightmare.

"It's a real dilemma as to what to do defensively to guard the three and give help on Samhan as well," said Morrill.

Samhan has a great scoring capability averaging 19.2 points per game and if the Aggies focus on Samhan they leave St. Mary's guards open for easy perimeter shot.

"(Samhan's) such a load and he is surrounded by such great shooters, and the problem is when you double team him he has the ability to pass the ball out for three," said Coach Morrill. "McConnell is shooting 60 percent from three and does a great job running the team."

The high-powered St. Mary's offense is averaging 86.7 points per game and has hit the century mark twice this season. The Gaels are also out-rebounding their opponents and Coach Morrill said he is most worried about whether his team will be ready for the Gaels' physical play.

"The physicality of the game, I hope the guys are ready for. We weren't (ready) down there last year, and they dominated us physically and they beat us on the boards," said Morrill.

St. Mary's Head Coach Randy Bennett admitted he has been avoiding having to play in the Spectrum and in fact, doesn't want to play there at all.

Coach Morrill's response?

"We're going to need to have our crowd perform at its best plus a great performance by our team to have a chance to win," said Morrill.

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. in the Spectrum.

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