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USU, SUU basketball: Foul-plagued Aggies hold on

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SUU senior guard David Marek tries to move past Utah State junior guard Jared Quayle during Wednesday's game in the Centrum Arena.

SUU senior guard David Marek tries to move past Utah State junior guard Jared Quayle during Wednesday’s game in the Centrum Arena.

RichardPayson/The Spectrum & Daily News

CEDAR CITY — Dressing only nine players and playing only six of them more than six minutes, Southern Utah probably had no business giving the heavily-favored Aggies everything they could handle.

Yet, it was Utah State that hopped aboard its bus for a long, snowy ride back to Logan thankful to have escaped with a 72-65 win over the Thunderbirds.

"We came out sluggish and we played sluggish the whole way," USU guard Jared Quayle said.

But despite what might have been its worst-played game of the season, Utah State improved to 7-1 thanks in large part to the improved play of its guard line while several of the Aggie post players sat and watched helplessly from the bench.

Most expected Utah State to come out and use its powerful interior game to dominate the T-Birds and get the short-handed team into foul trouble. It was Utah State, however, that found itself scrambling to overcome a rash of fouls to key players.

Tai Wesley, Matt Formisano and Modou Niang each fouled out and left USU coach Stew Morrill in the unfamiliar position of having to play key cogs of his team out of position. And with those post players out of the game, USU's offense was thrown out of sync.

The Aggies made only three baskets — all by Quayle — over the final 11 minutes of the game.

"We played a lot of those minutes with Tyler Newbold (a 6-foot-4 guard) at the 4," Morrill said. "We couldn't run our (normal) offense."

It also didn't help matters much that Southern Utah (3-7) played as if it had nothing to lose.

The Thunderbirds, coach Randy Reid said, knew they were facing long odds against the Aggies but had no choice other than to try and slow down USU's inside game.

"We knew we just had to move our feet and not reach," Reid said. "(Utah State) attacked like they always do, but I thought our guys hung in there and didn't back down."

In fact, SUU probably won the inside game with seniors Tyler Quinney and John Clifford combining for 34 points and 14 rebounds. They also took USU out of its offense with their aggressive play and active feet.

After being shut out for 13 minutes, Gary Wilkinson finally started getting the ball and when he did, me put the hurt on the Thunderbirds — literally.

The rugged senior center plowed his way through the SUU defense for 13 points over the final seven minutes of the first half and left T-Bird forward Tyler Quinney on the floor holding his jaw at one point following a powerful move to the basket for the hoop and the harm.

Southern Utah, which suited up only nine players after one team member was kicked off the team and another two were suspended for the game, appeared to be overmatched in most ways but hung tough with the Aggies as they showed no lack of aggression and did not back down to USU's post players.

USU got into a little foul trouble as Wesley picked up two fouls and reserve Formisano was sent to the bench with three fouls in only four minutes.

That only got worse later in the game.

And with SUU's Dave Marek, starting at the point after normal starter Mike Josserand was suspended for a game, knocking down four 3-pointers and scoring a team-best 21 points the T-Birds chipped away at USU's 15-point lead and got it all the way down to just two points at 65-63 with 26 seconds left.

Quayle, playing his best game as an Aggie, was clutch down the stretch, though, and scored 11 of his game-high 23 points over the final six minutes and had a huge rebound of a missed 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds left to help preserve the win.

"Fortunately, Stavon (Williams) and Jared Quayle had a really good game," Morrill said.

The emergence of Quayle, especially, might help USU in future games as opponents continue to double-down on the Aggie posts.

"We've been waiting for him," Morrill said.

Still, the Aggies felt lucky to get out of Cedar City with the win. They will need a little more than luck, however, on Saturday when they travel to face a surprisingly-competitive Idaho State team.

E-mail: jeborn@desnews.com