After a disappointing opening night on Friday, the Utah State men’s basketball team needed to restore confidence to the fans, and to themselves.
Consider it done.
The Aggies defeated the visiting Montana State Bobcats 81-73 on Monday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, improving to 1-1 on the young season. Alex Dargenton powered USU with a double-double featuring 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“You like to see improvement in your team, and we obviously improved in a lot of areas,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “I thought our guys did a lot of good things.”
USU, trailing the Bobcats 41-40 at the half, came out firing in the second half, powered by JC transfer DeAngelo Isby who scored 18 points on 5-8 shooting in the half, including 4-4 from behind the arc.
“He had a poor half, but he refocused at the half,” Duryea said of Isby’s performance. “I told him this is a hard game, and you’re gonna have bad halves, but that’s what halftime is for is to refocus.”
Isby was paralleled by sophomore Koby McEwen, who recovered from his nine-point performance versus Weber State to score 20 points on 7-14 shooting with four assists.
Against the Wildcats last Friday, Utah State attempted only 15 3-pointers on the night, well short of the 25-30 range head coach Tim Duryea has set as a per-game goal for the Aggies. USU still fell short of Duryea’s goal, attempting only 18 shots from 3-point territory. However, the home team converted 10 of their 18 attempts at a 55.6 percent clip.
In a fast-paced first half, the Aggies held their own versus the Bobcats, thanks in part to McEwen’s 11 first half points and sophomore Sam Merrill draining two 3-pointers. Freshman center Klay Stall also saw his first action of the season in the first half, rejecting two shots in only three minutes.
Junior Quinn Taylor added eight points of his own, plus four rebounds. Junior Dwayne Brown added 10 rebounds, as the Aggies outrebounded the Bobcats 41-28, including 30-14 in the second half.
“That’s really our gameplan is to be physical,” McEwen said of the team’s rebounding prowess on Monday night. “That doesn’t take much height to do that and we did that today.”
Montana State made it interesting late, holding USU scoreless from the field for over six minutes near the end of the game. The Bobcats were unable to convert enough offensive possessions, however, as the Aggies were able to seal the game at the free throw line.
Montana State had four scorers reach double figures, with Tyler Hall and Harald Frey each combining for 15 points for the Bobcats, who fell to 1-1 on the year.
The win was of a revitalizing nature for the Aggies, after falling to Weber State on Friday night for the second straight season. An offense that was expected to be high-octane and fast-paced sprung to life with a 56 percent shooting night.
Utah State returns to action quickly, as the Aggies will welcome Mississippi Valley State to the Spectrum on Wednesday night.