Logan • Justin Bean caught an elbow to the mouth in Utah State’s season-opening tight and nervy win over Montana State on Tuesday. The blow dislodged some teeth, but he played the rest of the game with anyway despite a bloody mouth.
An oral surgeon paid Bean, a visit at 12:30 a.m. His teeth are fixed and he’s wearing braces now, just like he did all four years of high school. He also has a broken nose from a hit he took in practice about a month ago, and has been playing with face mask.
“We talk about wrestling a lot,” coach Craig Smith said. “That guy is like the Ultimate Warrior.”
Much like his debut in the starting lineup just a few days ago, Bean’s grit and hustle showed on Friday for the Aggies, who pummeled the Weber State Wildcats 89-34 at the Spectrum. Bean, a sophomore forward, scored a game-high 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added nine rebounds.
The quintessential Bean play came late in the first half. Sophomore guard Brock Miller pulled up for a 3-pointer, which was on target but rimmed out.
But no Wildcat accounted for Bean, who came out of nowhere and followed the shot with an emphatic two-handed dunk. He screamed in celebration as his back thwacked against the court.
“Offensive rebounding is something I take a lot of pride in,” Bean said. “It’s not really a scientific way of playing. It’s just a matter of effort and grit. I think that kind of epitomizes my whole career — just trying to outwork my opponent.”
Bean had 13 points and 10 rebounds against Montana State.
Utah State’s lead ballooned to as many as 57 points in the second half. Every player that took the floor for Utah State contributed on the stat sheet. Only Roche Grootfaam, who had one rebound, didn’t score.
Senior guard Sam Merrill added 14 points and six assists, while junior guard Abel Porter had a double with 10 points and 10 assists.
Porter said it was nice to see the team share the ball. The Aggies had 26 assists on 37 made baskets.
Saturday’s game was a far cry from Utah State’s season opener.
“It was just kind of one of those nights where about anything that could go right did go right,” Smith said. “Three days ago, about anything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
Two early 3-pointers by the Wildcats helped them grab a 6-4 lead, but the Aggies went on a 20-2 run to take a 24-8 lead in with 6:17 left in the first half. At one point in the second half, USU’s run had been 54-9 since that early deficit.
The Wildcats suffered a first-half stretch in which they turned the ball over eight times in as many minutes. They finished the first half with 19 turnovers, while the Aggies had only eight.
Weber State sorely missed senior guard Jerrick Harding, who was named preseason Big Sky MVP for the 2019-20 season. Harding has been out with an injury to his right foot.
“That’s one of our leaders, so it hurts to have out of the lineup,” Wildcats senior guard Cody John said of Harding. “But we’ll get him back soon and be perfectly fine.”