Utah State basketball: Butterfield helps Aggies cruise past Texas State
Logan • If Utah State was expecting Spencer Butterfield to make a slow, gradual return, he made it clear early that's not how he does things.
Within the first minute, the junior guard had two rebounds, a steal and an assist. And within a few minutes, the Aggies had a double-digit lead.
It wouldn't get any closer than 10 points after that for Texas State (9-21, 4-13), which was steamrolled in the path of a rejuvenated Utah State (20-9, 10-7) squad cruising for a 77-61 win Thursday night at the Spectrum. Even with an announced crowd of 7,123, Butterfield energized the arena with a 10-point, 20-rebound night that gave the program its 14th straight season of 20 wins.
For Butterfield, there was never a doubt he'd give his all once he took the court.
"I had the mindset I was playing no matter what," he said. "I'm proud of the guys. We needed to make a statement tonight and say we're a contender for the championship. We need to get ready for the WAC Tournament."
For a Utah State team that has gotten used to losing starters and team leaders, it was a luxury to have one finally return. Although Butterfield missed only one game, his presence was missed in a weekend road loss to UT-Arlington.
The team that fell to the Mavericks on Saturday didn't take the floor it was a different squad, a focused one that flustered Texas State into only four first-half field goals and a season-low 15 first-half points. Through the first 17 minutes, the Bobcats had more turnovers (11) than points (10).
Utah State was physical in ways it hasn't always been. The Aggies forced a season-high 11 steals, scoring 23 points off of Texas State's turnovers. They also had eight blocks, including four by sophomore forward Ben Clifford.
"We got a lot of deflections on defense, and I think that's what really helped us," Clifford said. "They scored 15 on us in the first half. That's what we wanted to do."
The Aggies had a pedestrian shooting night, but Butterfield led the charge on the boards. His 20 rebounds were a career high and helped Utah State to a 47-30 advantage on the glass.
Utah State led by as much as 26 before a late run by Vonn Jones helped narrow the gap to 10. Late free throws helped the Aggies pull away once again.
Jarred Shaw led the team with 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting, and Clifford added 13. Butterfield notched his double-double in the waning minutes, hitting a pair of free throws and exiting the game three assists short of a triple-double.
But there was no question Butterfield's return helped lift Utah State. It made coach Stew Morrill wish there were more returning behind him.
"You look at the number of guys we've lost, and then you get down to where you lose another one it's just too much," Morrill said. "Having him back makes me pine for the fact that I would like to have a couple more back and wonder what might've been."
Storylines USU earns 20th win
R Junior Spencer Butterfield returns to the starting lineup, getting 10 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
• Jarred Shaw adds 15 points and 10 boards off the bench.
• Texas State is held to 15 points and four field goals in first half.