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(AP file photo)BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. -- The Utah State Aggies improved to 6-3 on the season after defeating the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners, 68-51 Wednesday night. The Aggies were able to stick to their coach's plan: win the battle of the boards and play with energy.
"We knew we had to go out and get all the rebounds. It was written on the board to rebound and play with energy and I think we did that," said sophomore forward Brady Jardine.
It's a comfortable win and it is a team, quite honestly, that we should beat.
–USU Head Coach Stew Morrill
Tai Wesley led Utah State with 10 rebounds and 15 points. Tyler Newbold added 13 points.
As a team, Utah State out-rebounded the ‘Runners 34-29 following a season-long trend in which the Aggies have out-rebounded every opponent this year.
Despite only shooting 42.2 percent from the field and a miserable 35.3 percent from three, some other key factors helped USU secure the victory against Cal State Bakersfield.
"It gives you a chance to win when you force turnovers and get offensive rebounds even when you don't shoot the ball as well," said USU Head Coach Stew Morrill.
The Aggies forced Cal State Bakersfield to commit 14 turnovers while committing a season low of just five.
USU pulled down 15 offensive rebounds; Wesley and Jardine recorded four a piece.
The Aggie bench out-scored the ‘Runners bench 25-18 and are now 5-0 when their bench out-scores the opponents' bench. Jardine finished the night with six points. Junior guard Brian Green scored five and true freshman Preston Medlin played some unexpected minutes finishing the night with five points in 19 minutes.
Coach Morrill said earlier that Medlin was doubtful after spraining his right ankle landing on a defender's foot against Utah Valley.
‘Runners senior forward Trent Blakely made a driving lay-up to give Cal State Bakersfield the lead with 14:31 left in the second half but the Aggies answered with a 27-2 run and led 34-17 at half time. Blakely hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 14, but Aggie senior guard Jared Quayle answered back with a 3-point shot of his own that sparked an Aggie 14-0 run.
Freshman guard Stephon Carter and Blakely were the only ‘Runners to finish in double figures. Carter led Cal State Bakersfield with 11 points and Blakely finished with 10. The ‘Runners, in their last year of transition to Division I basketball, fall to 1-7 on the year and face Loyola Marymount Saturday, Dec. 19.
"It's a comfortable win and it is a team, quite honestly, that we should beat," said Coach Morrill, who is now looking ahead to a very athletic and physical Long Beach State team.
Coach Morrill will take any road win, but still sees room for improvement for the Aggie men's basketball squad after what he described as a less than stellar performance against Cal State Bakersfield.
"There are still quite a few things we need to do better," said Morrill
Utah State faces the Long Beach State 49ers at the Pyramid Friday, Dec. 18th.