The Utah State basketball team was down in the dumps. It took a couple tough nonconference losses to start the 2020-21 season and two games had been canceled due to COVID-19 cases within the team.
So about a week ago, coach Craig Smith thought it would benefit the Aggies to start over.
“We had to really kind of hit the reset button and really just work on getting better and not worry about what’s going to happen in the future or what’s happened in the past,” Smith said. “Let’s live in the moment and live in today. Let’s get better today. Let’s pound the rock today and get better both as a team and individually with our skill development and understand what our team needs out of each guy.”
That message translated to a win Friday over Northern Colorado. But it continued in thunderous fashion Monday when the Aggies opened Mountain West Conference play with a 107-62 blowout of the San Jose State Spartans at the Spectrum in front of 1,500 fans.
Junior forward Justin Bean led the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting, while junior guard Brock Miller poured in 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line. Junior center Neemias Queta contributed eight points, nine rebounds, six blocks and five assists.
Smith took out his starters about midway through the second half and ended up using his entire bench. The biggest lead for the Aggies was 48 points.
“I think we kind of were going through the motions a little bit to start the year,” Bean said. “We were down in the dumps after taking a couple hard losses to start the season. And Coach Smith, he really hit the nail on the head. He just wanted us to clear our minds and just come in with a good work ethic and a good attitude and he just said to trust the process.”
The win improved USU’s overall record this season to 4-3, while SJSU dropped to 1-3. It’s the first time this season the Aggies have had a record over .500.
The conference opener couldn’t have gone better for the Aggies, who outclassed the Spartans in every way possible. Utah State outrebounded 59-36, outscored them 52-20 in the paint and out-assisted them 27-9.
The rebounding margin came mainly because the Aggies held San Jose State to just 32.9% shooting from the field, including only 23.1% from the 3-point line.
“It was really good in every aspect,” Smith said.
The tone was set early by Utah State. In one sequence, Queta rose up to swat away his fifth blocked shot of the first half. On the ensuing fast break, a lob pass to him was broken up, but he had the wherewithal to control tap the ball to Marco Anthony for the dunk.
In another sequence, Bean crossed over his defender, drove baseline and made a layup — a move he added to his arsenal over the summer.
“That’s something that last year, I felt like I had the ability to do, but I wasn’t really comfortable doing it in a game,” Bean said. “So from here on out, for sure I feel good doing that.”
The Aggies took a 21-point lead into halftime and extended it to 40 in just five minutes of second-half action.
The Aggies and Aztecs play again Wednesday at the Spectrum at 7 p.m.