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LOGAN -- The St. Mary's Gaels (6-1) broke the second longest home winning streak in the nation Saturday defeating the Utah State Aggies, 68-63 in Logan. The Aggies (4-3) had won 37 straight home games before losing to the Gaels.
The Gaels played hard and physical the whole game and the Aggies struggled to match the Gaels. Before the game, Aggie Head Coach Stew Morrill was concerned that his team wouldn't be ready for the Gaels' physicality.
"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.
In total there were 34 fouls called during the game and both teams fought for every basket. The Aggies did out rebound the Gaels 38-41, but Coach Morrill was more vocal about rebounding at key times, something the Aggies weren't able to do. The Gaels scored 17 second chance points to the Aggies eight second chance points.
"They got those three rebounds off of free-throws, they were just jumping over us and tipping them out and we weren't coming up with it," said senior Jared Quayle, who is leading the team in rebounding, "We had our chances. That's all I can really say. We let it slip."
Coach Morrill was concerned about how to defend Gaels' senior center Omar Samhan coming into the game. Both Samhan and Gaels' senior center Ben Allen caused multiple problems for the Aggie post players defensively and offensively. "Boy is he (Samhan) skilled and big. It makes it really hard," said Morrill. Aggie junior forward Tai Wesley scored 12 points but only hit 5-of-14 shots. He also only played 23 minutes Saturday due to foul trouble and couldn't get into a rhythm. Aggie junior center Nate Bendall scored 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and eventually fouled out of the game with 2:24 left.
Junior forward Pooh Williams led the Aggies with 15 points on a very efficient 6-of-7 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Quayle finish the night with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting and pulled down a team high nine rebounds.
"When your two leading scorers go 10-30 you're most likely going to get beat," said Morrill.
Samhan played big Saturday night and almost scored at will, hitting 10-of-18 shots for 22 points. Allen hit only 5-of-14 from the field, but nailed four 3-pointers on the night. Gaels' freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova also chipped in 12.
Neither team led by more than eight in a game that saw nine ties and seven lead changes. The score remained close in the first half until Quayle and Wesley hit back-to-back shots to put the Aggies up by four with 9:18 left in the first half. St. Mary's would respond however with an 11-0 run capped by a Samhan layup with 3:36 left in the first half.
Quayle and Wesley again hit back-to-back shots to end the first half and cut the deficit, 30-26.
The Gaels continued to hold their advantage until midway through the second half. Quayle sparked an Aggie 7-1 run on a layup and capped the run on a textbook off-ball screen 3-point shot to give the Aggies a 55-52 lead.
The Aggies eventually lost the lead with 5:04 left in the game and found themselves down five with 2:24 left after an old fashioned 3-point play by Dellavedova. The Aggies went on a 6-1 run with the help of four big free-throw shots by Wesley and sophomore forward Brady Jardine.
Sophomore Clint Stiendl hit a huge 3-point shot from the wing with 36 seconds left in regulation. The Aggies had a chance to tie the game on the ensuing possession but Williams was called for an offensive foul with 18 seconds left.
That seemed to seal the deal as the Gaels hit two more free-throw shots to push their lead to five and the Aggies couldn't hit a field goal on their last possession. Utah State did not score a basket in the last 2:13 of the game.
"We got beat by a really good team tonight. They are quite a bit better than us right now," said Morrill. "Our guys played hard tonight but not as hard as we would like. We've got to get better. If we're going to compete in the WAC we've got to get better."
Utah State will close out the current five-game home stand (3-1) against Utah Valley on Saturday, Dec. 12. Tipoff for that game is set for 7 p.m.