Aggies get pair of victories in California
By Wade Denniston and Doug Layne
Who said the Utah State University men's basketball team couldn't win on the road?
After their weekend on the road, the Utah State Aggies continue to dominate the Big West as they remain perfect in conference play and against teams from the Golden State.
Riding the back of junior forward Shawn Daniels, USU swept its two game stint in California as it won 61-57 Thursday night at the University of California at Santa Barbara and 74-62 Saturday night at California Polytechnic State University.
In the two-game Golden State sweep, Daniels connected on 14-of-23 shots from the floor for 30 points, snagged 27 rebounds, handed out four assists, swatted nine shots and recorded five steals, all in 73 minutes of playing time.
"He's getting better all the time," Aggie head coach Stew Morrill told KVNU radio. "He just has a great feel for the game."
USU vs. UCSB
After building a 16-point second half lead, the Aggies watched in horror as the Gauchos ran off 18 straight points of their own to take the lead.
UCSB opened up a six point margin, but Utah State rebounded and was able to finish the game on a 10-0 run.
"I thought we played real hard and were the aggressors in the first half, and early in the second half, as well," Morrill said. "I really thought we were ready to play, as ready as we have been on the road this year, and this would have been a very disappointing loss. To find a way to win that game should be awfully good for us confidence wise."
Daniels led the Aggies with 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. USU (4-0 Big West Conference, 13-5 overall) was in control from the get-go as it built a 37-25 halftime lead behind eight points from sophomore guard Tony Brown, as well as seven points each from junior guard Bernard Rock and Daniels.
The Aggies were able to shoot 44 percent in the opening half, while limiting the Gauchos to 40 percent.
After building its lead to 45-29 with 15:52 to go in the game, USU was held without any points for the next 7:27, allowing UCSB (1-3, 5-10) to take its first lead of the game at 47-45, with 8:41 remaining.
Following a tie at 49, the Gauchos widened their lead to six, following a layup from senior guard Derrick Allen, but Daniels started the Aggies' 10-point run to close out the game with one free throw.
For the game, Utah State shot 42 percent (22-of-53), while UCSB could only manage 36 percent (18-for-50). However, the Gauchos were able to outrebound the Aggies 40-32, which was just the fourth time this year USU has been outrebounded in a game.
Joining Daniels in double figures were Brown (14), senior forward Troy Rolle (10) and junior center Dimitri Jorssen (10).
USU vs. Cal Poly
Daniels, the golden boy from California, entertained the crowd again Saturday night, this time a sellout crowd of 3,032 at San Luis Obispo.
Daniels did not disappoint family, friends and coaches that were in attendance, as he scored 16 points and pulled down 17 rebounds (a career high). In the past, every season for the Aggies that has begun with four conference game victories has ended in a conference title or a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Of his performance, Daniels told the media, "It always helps when you know that your family is watching you."
Tony Brown nailed five 3-pointers and led the Aggies in scoring. The Aggies started the game with a 15-3 run over the Mustangs. The Mustangs refused to give into the Aggies as they came back to answer with a 16-6 run of their own. The rest of the first half remained close but Brown scored the last five points including a buzzer beater 3-point shoot to put the Aggies up 33-25.
Going into the second half, the Mustangs kept it close but the Aggies made yet another run as they outscored the Mustangs 12-2. Brown capped the run with a 3-point shot.
The Aggies found themselves up by 14 with less than10 minutes to play and it looked like the Aggies would run away with the game. But the Mustangs decided the game was not over and went on a 14-2 run of their own to pull with in two points of the Aggies.
That was about it for the Mustangs, as they simply ran out of gas and never could take the lead.
The Aggies pulled away for the last time as Dimitri Jorssen sunk his first 3-point attempt ever just before fouling out.
The Aggies ended the game with a 10-0 run.
The Aggies held Cal Poly's Big West Conference leading scorer, junior center Chris Bjorklund, to a meager 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting from the field.
Coming into the game, Bjorklund was averaging 21 points per contest.
The Aggies were able to shoot 57 percent in the game, while limiting the Mustangs to only 33 percent. Utah State also outrebounded Cal Poly 40 to 32.
"Every time they made a run, it seemed like we came back, hit a couple of big shots and went on a little bit of a run ourselves," Brown told KVNU. "It kind of got them disrupted. They couldn't quite find their rhythm and offense."
Joining Daniels and Brown in double figures for the Aggies were Rock (10) and Rolle (11).
NOTES: The two-game Golden State sweep was the first time USU
has won two in a row on the road in league action since the 97-98 season,
also against Cal Poly and UCSB. Junior forward Andre Mahorn did not
accompany the team on the trip due to a stress fracture in his foot.
The Aggies are now 8-0 vs. teams from the state of California this season.
Prior to the California trip, the Aggies were 0-3 on the road.