Logan • Utah State started hot, but faltered early in the first half.
Jarred Shaw made sure his team finished the way they started.
Two defensive-minded squads had a shootout on Saturday night at the Dee Glen Spectrum, and Utah State’s junior center was the star. He had a 24-point night going against the biggest player in the Western Athletic Conference, 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar, to lead the hometown Aggies to victory against bitter rival New Mexico State.
“Glad we got that monkey off our backs,” Shaw said. “We needed that win. We went out there and got it.”
When Utah State went to Las Cruces in January, it left limping — a loss and two injured starters in tow. On Saturday, the program earned a critical victory to keep pace in the WAC and some pride.
Holding up the banner for Utah State was Shaw, who tortured the massive Bhullar inside and out. He didn’t shy away from contact, driving in for dunks and layups. But he also hit jumpers that tested the giant’s slower step.
In all, Shaw went 11 for 18 on the night. The second half went from one-point contest to a comfortable lead with Shaw’s surge. It made up for the January matchup in which Shaw struggled in a 5-for-12 night.
“Well, [Shaw] just played so much smarter,” Morrill said. “At the start of the game, we put in two looks to bring Sim out on the perimeter ... and he doesn’t come out very far on the perimeter. Jarred got two wide-open baskets, made them both and that got him going.”
Utah State had trouble cruising to the finish, struggling against a relentless full-court press by NMSU. The visiting Aggies cut it to four, but defensive effort helped Utah State run out the clock for a revenge win in front of its home fans.
With a national television audience on ESPNU, Utah State played its best basketball in the opening minutes. Shaw spurred a 19-5 run, spinning around in the post and making even contested shots look easy.
He was helped by Spencer Butterfield, who had 15 points of his 17 points in the first half to make it look as though the hometown Aggies would run away with a rematch victory.
But New Mexico State took advantage of the lull brought on by the double-digit lead, as guards Terrel de Rouen and Remi Barry shot their team back into contention.
Utah State’s 13-1 run was answered by a 12-0 by NMSU, and the game remained a single-digit affair until late. It didn’t help that the visiting squad finished with 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 25 second-chance points.
But Utah State showed resilience with defensive effort, albeit in spurts, holding NMSU to 40.6 percent shooting. On offense, Marcel Davis helped break down New Mexico State’s defense late with penetration, finishing with nine points.
It was the hometown Aggies’ first win over NMSU in the last four games, and could be the programs’ final meeting for a while. Butterfield hoped they remember it for a long time.
“It’s nice to get them back for the loss they put on us and taking down some of our guys, too,” he said. “We’re just as aggressive. We don’t back down from a challenge. We’re a better team.”
Storylines USU wins battle of Ags
R Jarred Shaw scores 24 points to lead host Utah State over New Mexico State, 73-69.
• Spencer Butterfield scores 15 of his 17 points in the first half for Utah State.
• With the victory, Utah State (18-6, 9-5) remains in fourth place in the Western Athletic Conference.