Logan • It had no impact on Utah State’s tournament seeding. It wasn’t the 20-win threshold, or even a win over a good team.
But Utah State’s 1,500th win in program history was important, Stew Morrill said afterward. If only for finishing out the season the right way.
“It was our last game at home, it was Senior Night,” he said. “We needed to win this game.”
The Aggies played through a few offensive miscues to pull away in the second half for a 71-51 win over UT-San Antonio on Saturday night. Only 6,984 fans dotted the Spectrum, but forward Ben Clifford poured in a career-best 21 points to guide the Aggies to victory, the last regular-season win in Utah State’s last season in the WAC.
It capped a weekend of a pair of double-digit home wins, a shot in the arm the Aggies hope prepares them for the WAC tournament next Thursday.
“It definitely gives us some momentum and gives us some confidence back,” Clifford said. “We want to get on a roll.”
Clifford himself seemed on a hot streak, going 7 for 10 from the floor and making a number of tough shots around the rim. He was a consistent scorer when Utah State struggled, one of only three Aggies to score in a 25-point first half.
The sophomore also helped the team get going in the second half, converting a few three-point plays and going 7 for 8 from the free-throw line. It opened up the floor for a blistering 60.7 percent shooting performance after intermission, the rally that ultimately pulled Utah State ahead for good.
It was a night for unheralded contributors. TeNale Roland had a career-best 14 points, and reserve center Matt Lopez was 4 for 4 with eight points. An 18-4 run was just about all she wrote for UTSA.
“Coach just told me to be a little more aggressive,” Roland said. “I started looking for my shot more, and I was able to knock them down.”
Spencer Butterfield had 14 as well, but was held to two in the second half, and Jarred Shaw got 11 points.
UTSA’s offense was sluggish as well, but never got going. The one spark was Michael Hale III, a 5-foot-9 guard who stung the Aggies from the 3-point line and finished with 21 points.
But the Roadrunners’ frontcourt, which had performed well in the teams’ first meeting in San Antonio, was subdued. Jordan Sims, who led with 20 points in the previous contest, was held to three.
The win brought Utah State to an 11-7 mark in the conference, but the Aggies were locked in as a No. 5 seed against UT-Arlington even entering the game. USU has gone 0 for 2 against the Mavericks this season.
When the two play on Thursday night, Utah State will be looking to buck the trend. Morrill said the challenge, as has been the case this season, is trying to keep his injury-depleted team fresh.
“We’re trying to get rested up,” he said. “We’re worn down, we’re tired. You can see that out there we’ve hit the wall a little bit. We’re trying to shorten practice, we’re trying to take days off.”
The lone senior honored was Kyisean Reed, a preseason All-WAC forward who suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, one of the team’s several long-term injuries this year.
Storylines USU buckles down
R The Aggies shoot 60.7 percent in the second half and 50 percent for the game to beat the Roadrunners.
• Ben Clifford sets a career mark with 21 points.
• TeNale Roland adds a career-best 14 points.