Utah State routs Seattle thanks to stifling zone defense
Seattle • With about four minutes left, Spencer Butterfield dived for a steal. He thought he had gotten away with robbery.
Then, the whistle. A foul. He threw his head back."They stole that one from me!" he shouted.
But he never stopped grinning, and neither did the huddle he returned to in the timeout that followed.
Utah State was up 22 points on the road, its second straight victory in hand. The chairs the Aggies were seated on may as well have been clouds.
"We feel good," said Butterfield, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "We feel like we're getting better and better every day."
For Utah State (16-5, 7-4), that's not just an idle clichÃ©. The Aggies dominated for a 68-46 win Seattle (7-14, 2-9) on its home court at Key Arena on Saturday evening.
It was perhaps the defensive performance of the season. Utah State's zone was a mystifying puzzle for the Redhawks, who shot only 18-for-58 on the night. And when they missed, more times than not, the leading rebounding team in the Western Athletic Conference found itself getting beaten on the boards - by 19 in the end.
The energy on the glass, on defense, and a smooth-shooting night of its own led Utah State to its second success in three nights after a victory at Idaho on Thursday. In the course of a weekend, the Aggies have transformed from a beat-up squad with eight scholarship players back into one of the more imposing foes in the WAC.
Coach Stew Morrill, perhaps for the first time this season, openly dared compare his feelings of pride with those of his most successful teams. This year, he said, he's felt the joy of being an underdog.
"I don't think a lot of people would've laid odds on us for sweeping this trip," Morrill said. "I don't think you'd have got much money on that. So as a coach, that's rewarding. I'm proud of our team."
When Morrill said "team," he meant Jarred Shaw, who once again led with 16 points. He meant Butterfield, who corralled his fourth straight rebound. He also meant his point guards, Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland, who each had double-digit outings.
In fact, the Aggies found it hard to frown at anyone's performance. Ben Clifford had 10 tough boards, despite lacking some touch shooting. Marvin Jean had a similar off-night on offense, but had four steals and four assists. Even Matt Lopez and Jordan Stone grabbed boards and played sound defense, to the point where Seattle looked broken by the finish.
In the beginning, it was only a small lead, more of an exchange. But Utah State's defense and rebounding started tilting the game in its favor. The Redhawks let the halftime lead get out to 11 points when Butterfield made a running floater and Jean blocked a buzzer-beater.
Seattle didn't find much fight in the intermission. The gap ballooned to 15, then to 20. The Redhawks didn't have a semblance of control, never closing it to under double digits and letting it swell to 24 at one point.
Utah State had reason to celebrate with back-to-back wins on the road, but the path to getting back to WAC contention is tougher. The Aggies have only one game next week, against San Jose State, with Denver and New Mexico State after that in Logan.
If Utah State wants to be a contender in the WAC and - hold your breath a possible postseason bid, there's work to be done.
"They gotta come ready, we gotta come ready," Roland said. "It's not going to be an easy fight."
Utah State 68, Seattle 46
UTAH ST. (16-5) • Clifford 2-7 2-2 6, Jean 1-5 2-2 5, Shaw 8-11 0-0 16, Davis 3-7 4-5 11, Butterfield 4-11 2-2 13, Lopez 1-2 0-0 2, Roland 5-9 0-0 12, Stone 1-1 1-2 3. Totals • 25-53 11-13 68.
SEATTLE (7-14) • Trent 3-9 0-0 6, Rasmussen 2-10 5-6 10, Crook 0-1 0-0 0, Obasi 1-5 0-0 2, Pickett Jr. 2-8 0-0 4, Tate 1-4 0-0 2, Green 2-4 2-2 6, Trimble 0-0 0-0 0, Diop 2-3 0-0 4, Bidart 1-3 1-2 4, Flora 4-11 0-0 8. Totals • 18-58 8-10 46. HalftimeUtah St. 30-19. 3-Point GoalsUtah St. 7-17 (Butterfield 3-6, Roland 2-3, Davis 1-2, Jean 1-4, Clifford 0-2), Seattle 2-20 (Bidart 1-3, Rasmussen 1-7, Trent 0-1, Pickett Jr. 0-1, Obasi 0-3, Flora 0-5). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsUtah St. 44 (Butterfield 11), Seattle 25 (Diop 6). AssistsUtah St. 13 (Jean, Roland 4), Seattle 11 (Obasi, Pickett Jr. 4). Total FoulsUtah St. 11, Seattle 17. A3,270.