Utah State basketball: Roland powers Aggies to first conference win
Logan •Â TeNale Roland's 20-point, perfect shooting outburst may have surprised a lot of people at the Spectrum on Saturday night.
Not his team. No, coach Stew Morrill said, he wasn't surprised at all.
"We've been waiting for that," he said. "He can really shoot the ball."
The senior guard left no doubt of his skill, scoring all of his points in the second half and going 5-for-5 from the field to help the Aggies best San Jose State, 86-67, in a game rife with big shots. The Spartans put up the most 3-pointers on Utah State since 2005, but in the end, a robust second half powered by Roland's run gave Utah State its first conference win in the Mountain West.
Among the Aggies' lineup of dangerous senior guards, Roland has been the longest due for a breakout game. It prompted a line of smiles and playful taunts from his teamates as they filed into the lockroom after the victory.
"It was awsome to see TeNale step up and get some shots," said Spencer Butterfield, who finished with 14 points himself. "I knew he had it in him. This was a great game for him to come out and get hot."
From the outset, the Aggies were offset by the razor-sharp 3-point shooting of San Jose State: The Spartans shot more than 61 percent of their field goals behind the line, and made enough of them to make Utah State sweat.
Clinging to a 30-29 lead at halftime, the Aggies finally figured out its own offensive issues after a pedestrian first half. After trading buckets to start the second half, Roland scored 12 straight points to build a 3-point lead into a 9-point one in only two-and-a-half minutes.
The punch seemed to wilt San Jose State's resolve. Not long after, a layup by Jalen Moore gave the Aggies a double-digit edge, and the Spartans didn't have many big shots left to answer the assault with.
Roland was not the only Aggie to have a brilliant game. Preston Medlin knocked down buckets and made even more key passes, finishing with 15 points and 8 assists against no turnovers. Kyle Davis had his third double-double in as many games, helping Utah State gain a nearly two-to-one rebounding and inside scoring advantage.
Roland made sure to spread the praise around.
"I have to give credit to my team for finding me," he said. "They gave me good passes and I was able to get them it. Our offense gives a lot of opportunities for our guys to get open shots."
The main story coming in turned out to be more of a subplot: Senior center Jarred Shaw's return from a five-game suspension saw him shoot only 2-for-10 from the field for six points and nine rebounds. His early struggles with turnovers led Morrill to try a few different lineups, including the "small" lineup with Davis and Moore that eventually helped the team take off.
Asked about Shaw's performance, Morrill said his big man was more or less what he expected after a long layover. The veteran Aggies coach seemed more relieved to get to bounce back from a rough one-point loss at Air Force.
"It was a game we had to have, and they responded in the second half," Morrill said. "They knew we weren't playing as well at halftime. We were giving ourselves a chance to get beat."
The Aggies trailed by as much as four as San Jose State came out firing. Freshman Rashad Muhammad started 6-for-6 from 3-point range, leading his team with 20 points for the game.