start season right with 21-point win over Montana State-Northern
NEW GUY IN TOWN: JC transfer
point guard Jared Quayle brings the ball upcourt, getting
into his first non-exhibition game as an Aggie.
/ Photo by Leah Lopshire
By Craig Morris
November 16, 2008 | Utah State opened its regular
season with a 71-50 victory over the Montana State Northern
Lights at the Spectrum. Montana State came into the
game 6-0 on the season and defending co-champions in
the Frontier Conference of the NAIA.
Gary Wilkinson led the team with a double-double (24
points and 12 rebounds) while Tai Wesley added 13 points
and seven boards. Wilkinson scored the first play of
the game on a baseline screen with an assist from Pooh
Williams. The Lights had no answer for the post play
of Utah State all night.
Montana State-Northern kept it interesting for a good
portion of the game with scrappy play. Travis Noble
led the team in scoring with 18 points on 4 of 7 from
the three-point line.
It seemed as if the Aggies would start to pull away
when the roof nearly came off after a monster dunk from
Modou Niang, but the Lights responded with a few free
throws and a three-pointer to trim the lead to 21-17.
Both teams fought hard but Wilkinson added a slam dunk
of his own on an assist from Wesley that gave Utah State
the momentum heading into halftime with a 35-25 lead.
The Lights pulled to within eight points in the second
half, but Williams picked off a pass and took it coast
to coast for the layup, and the Ags never looked back.
"We can't look past any team," said Wilkinson. And
they didn't. The Aggies played with intensity and hustled
the whole game.
USU Coach Stew Morrill said, "That's exactly
what I expected from Montana State-Northern. I thought
they did a really good job of coming in and competing."
The Aggies shot 54 percent from the field but managed
to shoot only 61 percent from the charity stripe. Utah
State played smothering defense and forced the opponent
to take a lot of bad shots, which led to deafening chants
of "Air ball! Air ball!" from the crowd. The
Lights shot just 38 percent from the field in the game.
"We obviously have to make some improvements
in a lot of areas to be a decent Division I team,"
added Morrill. "If you look at the stats, we didn't
necessarily play horribly, but I think we better improve
in a hurry to compete with Santa Barbara."
Utah State travels to play an old rival, UC Santa
Barbara, Monday. The Gauchos are 1-0 on the season and
also won their only exhibition game. These two teams
battled it out for years in the Big West before Utah
State joined the WAC.
The Aggies will be at home again Nov. 25 when they
will host in-state rival Weber State.