College basketball: Utah State beats Oakland in CIT semifinal
Logan • In what has been a difficult season for Utah State, it hasn't been too often that Stew Morrill could relax on his bench, look onto the floor and thoroughly enjoy his product.
But in an postseason that could result in a CollegeInsider.com Tournament championship, Morrill was certainly able to reach a high comfort level against Oakland on Sunday night.
"Everything looks easy when you make a lot of shots," Morrill quipped. "Tonight, we made a lot of shots."
Confronted with a Grizzlies team that encountered massive travel issues en route to Logan, USU took full advantage, dusting Oakland 105-81 before 2,092 at the Spectrum. The Aggies scored 60 points in the first half, their most ever against a Division I team in a first half. They made 12 of 16 3-pointers and supplemented that by getting to the free-throw line 25 times.
In short, Utah State has looked like the USU of old for the past three weeks. This is seven wins in eight tries for an Aggie team that looked all but ready to limp to the end of their season in early February.
"We knew they were a high-scoring team," sophomore forward Danny Berger said. "Luckily, we were able to match it. They shot lights out in the first half, but so did we. We were able to string a few stops together in the second half and lower their percentage a little bit. This was a fun game."
Utah State is now one victory away from winning the CIT. Mercer, from the Atlantic Sun Conference, is the lone roadblock remaining for the Aggies, with the two matching up on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Logan.
Star sophomore Preston Medlin was once again sensational for USU, scoring 26 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out three assists.
Senior point guard Brockeith Pane was just as good. In what may have been his best all-around performance of the season, Pane scored 20 points and handed out 10 assists, while harassing Reggie Hamilton, the leading scorer in the country, into a 6-for-21 shooting performance. Hamilton scored 23 points and had nine assists, but Pane had him visibly frustrated with his physical style of defense.
Pane and Medlin have been constants this season. The difference Sunday was the help they received. Morgan Grim scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Berger scored 17 points and made five 3-pointers.
"They were really good," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. "I have a lot of respect for this program and what they've done. I understand this hasn't been Morrill's best year or his best team, but they were prepared tonight. I can't believe they've played any better than that this year. We ran into their A game tonight."
Utah State 105,Oakland 81
R Utah State scores 60 points in the first half.
• The Aggies lead by as much as 30 points in the second half.
• USU advances to meet Mercer in Wednesday's CIT title game at 7 p.m. at the Smith Spectrum.