College basketball: Utah State tops Weber State in free-throw battle
Logan • As Kyisean Reed sank a jumper, the crowd of 8,415 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum erupted, screaming at ear-piercing levels.
It was only a 59-53 lead for the Utah State basketball team. But in this matchup, six points felt like more than enough.
It was a lead that Utah State (3-1) would not surrender. The Aggies went on to top in-state foe Weber State (1-2) in a 65-55 battle on Saturday that was won mostly on the free-throw line, giving Utah State some redemption for a loss last season in Ogden.
"That's the kind of games we generally have with Weber: Kind of knock-down, drag-out, tough to score," coach Stew Morrill said. "We're just glad we hung in there and found a way to grind one out."
Facing former USU assistant Randy Rahe, the Aggies were locked in a see-saw affair with the Wildcats. The game had 24 lead changes, and for a stretch of nearly 23 minutes, neither team had a lead greater than two points.
But foul-prone Weber sent the Aggies to the line for 27 attempts in the second half, and they made 20 of them. Preston Medlin and Ben Clifford in particular held strong from the line, going a combined 15-for-20 to help pull away at the finish.
Medlin finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists in what might have been his best stat-stuffing game of the season, and Clifford gave 11 points off the bench.
Weber State couldn't keep pace, shooting only 55.2 percent from the stripe.
"They were a very physical team, which is something we knew coming into the game," Medlin said. "It was good for us to attack them, and we got to the line a lot."
The Utah State backcourt also shined by denying Weber State at the perimeter. The Wildcats had cruised to a win last year on the strength of their outside shooters, particularly Scott Bamforth, who had seven 3-pointers.
This season, they couldn't get in the same rhythm as they only made three long-range attempts. Bamforth was barely a factor in the contest, scoring four points.
It wasn't easy to score inside on Utah State, either. The Aggies once again dominated the boards for a 13-rebound margin over Weber State. Jarred Shaw led the inside effort with 16 points and 12 rebounds for his second double-double as an Aggie.
"That's our best stat right now," Morrill said of the edge on the boards. "Offensively we've been inconsistent, defensively we've been inconsistent, but rebounding-wise we've been good. If we can keep that up, that will keep you in a lot of games."
Utah State shot only 45.7 percent from the field, but the Wildcats were worse, especially in the second half. Weber State managed only six field goals after the intermission, and Davion Berry was the only player in double digits, with 11 points.
Rahe said he was happy with the game plan, but not with the fouling.
"I wouldn't say they came and blew us out," he said. "We put them on the free-throw line is what happened. They made free throws, and we didn't."
With the victory, Utah State has now won 27 straight home games against in-state opponents.
Utah State 65, Weber State 55
R Utah State makes 22 of 32 free throws to pull away with a win against Weber State.
• Preston Medlin leads all scorers with 17 points and adds nine rebounds and four assists.