Moscow, Idaho • Which team was the best-shooting team in the WAC? Which team had the league’s best center? Which team was mired in a four-game losing streak?
Going into Thursday’s contest between Idaho (8-12, 4-6) and Utah State (15-5, 6-4), the answers were clear. But as the Aggies put forth one of their most spirited efforts of the season, those certainties became blurred.
The final minutes of Utah State’s 77-67 victory at Cowan Spectrum turned things upside down. An Aggies team that had been shooting poorly was red hot from the floor. Jarred Shaw, who had been up and down at times, had a career-best scoring night against one of the conference’s top post players. And Stew Morrill, who is working with his most injury-depleted roster of his career, showed he still had some coaching magic against his former assistant.
Getting a victory for the first time since injuries to starters Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed was nothing short of liberating. And it created some hope that Utah State, even with only eight scholarship players, can still be a WAC contender.
“I don’t think you really appreciate it unless you’re in the middle of it,” Morrill said. “They kept their spirit up and just played a heck of a game.”
Idaho was reeling early as the Aggies hit them with surprise punches. A post ball screen enabled freshman Marcel Davis to rocket toward the net for easy layups and six of the first eight points.
That, combined with some early pressure that kept the Vandals’ heads spinning, helped catapult the Aggies to an 18-3 lead.
The hot start was soon doused by an 11-0 Idaho run, but that’s when Shaw stepped up his game. Whirling in the post like a tornado, the Texan shot 12 for 15 from the floor on the way to 27 points. Vandals center Kyle Barone came into the game as the more heralded post player, but foul trouble sent him to the bench and allowed Shaw to steamroll in the paint.
The Vandals closed the lead to two points at various times late in the first half and early in the second, but Utah State would not be stopped. When Idaho was behind 46-44, the Aggies went off on a 15-2 run that clinched it.
That rally was hard to pin to a single player: TeNale Roland hit 3-pointers, Spencer Butterfield was snatching up rebounds, Davis hit some shots from the free-throw line.
It was very much a team win — one Utah State had been seeking for two weeks. And if the Aggies have their way, more will follow.
“We’re not gonna give up,” Davis said. “We still feel like we’re one of the best teams in the league. Now we’re going to play like it.”
O The Aggies break a four-game slide with the 77-67 victory.
• Jarred Shaw sets a career high with 27 points and adds nine rebounds.
• Marcel Davis scores 16 points in his first double-digit game since Jan. 5.
Utah State 77, Idaho 67
UTAH ST. (15-5) • Davis 4-9 8-10 16, Clifford 2-3 0-1 5, Shaw 12-15 3-3 27, Jean 2-4 0-0 6, Butterfield 4-9 2-3 11, Lopez 0-0 0-0 0, Roland 2-5 2-2 8, Stone 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 28-47 15-19 77.
IDAHO (8-12) • Harris Jr. 5-10 1-2 13, C. Hill 5-9 0-0 14, McChristian 3-5 0-0 8, Barone 4-7 3-6 11, Madison 5-11 3-4 14, Douglas 0-0 0-0 0, Habeeb 2-2 0-0 5, Borton 0-0 0-0 0, Kammerer 0-2 0-1 0, Faines 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-47 7-13 67.
Halftime—Utah St. 31-25. 3-Point Goals—Utah St. 6-13 (Roland 2-2, Jean 2-4, Clifford 1-1, Butterfield 1-4, Davis 0-2), Idaho 10-19 (C. Hill 4-7, Harris Jr. 2-4, McChristian 2-4, Habeeb 1-1, Madison 1-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Utah St. 27 (Butterfield 10), Idaho 16 (Barone 7). Assists—Utah St. 9 (Butterfield 4), Idaho 14 (McChristian 4). Total Fouls—Utah St. 13, Idaho 17. A—1,190.