Utah State's Kendall Youngblood, an Ogden native, really wanted to play well in front of his hometown fans Saturday afternoon. He was coming off a 27-point night against Utah and was primed for more of the same against Weber State.
But Youngblood, plagued by foul trouble, played barely half the game and never got into the Aggies' offensive flow, scoring just nine points, getting only two rebounds and committing a team-high four turnovers.At least he came up with the winning points for Utah State.
It was Youngblood's two free throws with 20 seconds that proved to be the difference as the Aggies captured their second two-point victory in as many days with a 64-62 decision before 3,571 at the Dee Events Center.
"Free throws should be the easiest shots you have - you just have to step up there and knock them down," said Youngblood. As for his tough afternoon otherwise, he said, "You always want to have the best game of your life at home. It didn't happen, but we still got the win."
After Youngblood's free throws, Weber's Michael Ostlund, the Wildcats' best outside shooter, missed a 3-point attempt. In a scramble under the basket, Weber's Jerry McIntosh came up with the loose ball and was fouled hard by Youngblood, who later explained, "He's only a 50 percent foul shooter, so I got a hard foul so he wouldn't score."
True to his average, McIntosh made one of two at the 7-second mark and a second later, USU's Darrel White was fouled. He also missed and Weber freshman Mike Sivulich dribbled the length of the floor and fired up a 19-footer (his foot was just over the 3-point line) that missed badly at the buzzer.
It was the same ending as Thursday's 2-point win over Utah, when the Aggies missed a late foul shot and watched the Utes' buzzer attempt fail.
Actually this game may have been won by the Aggies late in the first half when an unlikely cast helped Utah State go on a 13-point run that turned an 8-point deficit into a 33-30 halftime lead.
Weber State was cruising along with a 28-20 lead just under the 5-minute mark when USU reserve Rich Jardine hit a 3-pointer. Then Sean Lake, who had only played 25 minutes all season, sank a 3-pointer and reserve Darrel White tied the score with an 18-footer.
The last two minutes USU Coach Kohn Smith used a lineup he might use in the waning seconds of a 20-point game - seldom-used Brent Lofton, Troy White and Lake, along with point guards Allen Gordon and Albert Chappell. Lake canned another 3-pointer with 1:29 left and then Lofton tipped in a miss by Chappell. Although it wasn't a 30-point run like the Ags had in the first USU-Weber game, the 13-point run turned the game around.
"Our bench in the first half came in and really did a good job and actually came from behind and got us the lead," said Smith. "There were some kids who haven't played a lot. I just wish I had more playing time to work with."
Lake, a returned LDS missionary who's still working his way back into shape, said he wasn't surprised when called upon by Smith. "He's told me when we play against a zone that I'll get some playing time to open the zone up. That's my forte, the 3-point shot."
In the second half, the Aggie lead stayed between two and six points until Weber crept within one with 25 seconds left on a banker by Aaron Bell, who led the Wildcats with 18 points.
Weber State Coach Denny Huston felt pleased with his team's overall effort, especially on the boards where the Wildcats outrebounded USU 40 to 22 with 16 offensive boards.
"The biggest concern I had was our defense," said Huston. "This is the first time I've felt like our defense wasn't very good. That was the only area I was concerned about as far as the entire game went."
The Wildcats stayed in a 1-2-2 zone most of the day, but USU's inside players Randy Funk and Jardine got free for several easy baskets. Funk scored a game-high 22 points on 10 of 13 shooting, while Jardine, relegated to the bench after a so-so performance against Utah, scored 15 on 6 of 9 shooting.
"I thought they were pretty aggressive inside, but I was more aggressive than usual," said Funk. "I was going to the basket more today."
The win upped the Aggies record to 6-5 as they pack their bags for a New Year's Day trip to California where they'll meet Cal-Irvine and Cal-Santa Barbara on Tuesday and Thursday.
"It's a big win for us because we're going on the road for our first two (league) games," said Smith. "We've got a young team with all these new kids and winning on the road and another close game, will help their confidence."
Weber which fell to 4-5, has a trip of their own next week with games at DePaul and Western Michigan, Wednesday and Thursday. They open Big Sky play the following week with four straight home games.