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Aggies vanquish Vandals

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MOSCOW, Idaho — It was weird. Leonard Perry standing there with his suit jacket off, wearing that familiar black adidas turtleneck shirt, screaming and gesturing on the sidelines during a Utah State basketball game. It was just like former Utah State coach Larry Eustachy, for whom Perry played at Idaho and assisted at USU and Iowa State.

Perry, of course, was on the Idaho side of the Cowan Spectrum floor this time, in his first season coaching his alma mater and facing his former USU team for the first time as head coach.

His Vandal team that had won three of its last four games and five of its last eight in a most-Eustachy-like January run, winning with defense and rebounding, had USU on the ropes with the Aggies' poorest-scoring first half (26-24) of the season.

But the Vandals suffered a most-Stew Morrill-like Aggie Brownout Saturday night. As Aggie coach, Morrill has topped even Eustachy's success there, and Tony Brown added to it again.

Brown made seven of 10 3-point shots to tie his career best in threes made and help the Aggies overcome a nine-point Vandal lead with less than 16 minutes to go to pull off a 57-46 victory.

The Aggies, now 14-4, 6-3 and tied for third in the Big West Conference, had their biggest lead, 14 points, with 16 seconds left on a Desmond Penigar layin that put USU's leading season scorer into double figures, barely, for the eighth straight game. He had 10 on 5-for-12 shooting and six rebounds.

Brown became USU's No. 12 career scorer with 1,397 points.

"Idaho does a good job of making you beat them," said USU coach Stew Morrill, who inherited Brown from Eustachy and Perry. They signed him, then left for Iowa State that summer, and Morrill acknowledged being the beneficiary ever since.

"Larry was the lead dog on him, and I dogpaddled on his coat tails," said Perry about the recruiting of Brown.

Brown said he was surprised the Vandals didn't pick up on an Aggie halftime adjustment with a high, on-ball screen that freed him for three important 3-point makes in a critical period. The first tied the game at 37, the second put USU ahead 40-37 and the third made it 43-39.

Morrill credited seniors like Brown, Ray and Vague for pulling off the comeback. Vague had 10 points and eight rebounds, and Ray had six rebounds and three assists.

Brown said it was the coaches who did the job.

Of his teammates, he said, "I think we had half and half," Brown said of the Aggies' demeanor during Idaho's 9-0 spurt. "Some guys tried to pick us up the right way, and some in the wrong way."

E-mail: lham@desnews.com