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Utah State basketball: Energized Aggies knock off Nevada

LOGAN — Utah State was playing its third game in eight days. Nevada had an entire week to rest and prepare for the Aggies and the Spectrum.

It was USU, however, that had energy and life as the Aggies dominated the glass and put away the Wolf Pack with a convincing 76-65 win to stay on top of the Western Athletic Conference standings.

"I thought they did a really good job in the week they had to prepare for us," Morrill said, of the defensive effort showed by Nevada that limited USU to just 39.7 percent shooting. "We really only had one day to practice and get ready for this. So I feel really fortunate."

In front of a sellout crowd, Utah State had three players flirt with double-doubles as Tai Wesley, Jared Quayle and Brady Jardine had stellar games for the red-hot Aggies, who are now 18-6 overall and boast an 8-2 WAC mark with eight consecutive wins.

"We rebounded the heck out of the basketball," Morrill said, "and that was huge for us."

The Wolf Pack was paced by Luke Babbitt's 20-point, nine-rebound performance. Armon Johnson added 19 for Nevada, but with virtually no contribution off the bench, the Wolf Pack faded down the stretch.

Wesley tossed in 19 points of his own, but his nine rebounds — including seven on the offensive end — more than offset the Wolf Pack's star player.

"I felt like tonight I wanted to go out and score the ball," Wesley said, "and score it in the post."

His trademark up-and-under pump fakes had Nevada defenders guessing all game long. And even when he missed — he was 7-of-13 from the floor — there was often someone waiting to grab the ball and put it back in.

"It was really kind of fun to go up and get some rebounds," Wesley said.

Quayle added a dozen points and nine rebounds while Jardine chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds as Utah State owned the glass with a 43-33 rebounding advantage.

Though USU had an off night shooting — the Aggies hit just 39.7 percent of their shots — they had 21 offensive rebounds that resulted in 20 second-chance points.

Those 21 offensive boards are a season high for the Aggies.

Also impressive for Utah State was a 18-4 assist-turnover ratio.

"If you have 18 assists and only four turnovers you have a chance to win a game," Morrill said, "even if you shoot a low percentage."

Of course, the rebounding stood out most.

"We got some bounces that went our way," Wesley said. "But we worked hard for them. … It seemed every time a shot went up either Brady or I was going to go get it."

Nevada, which could have dropped the Aggies from first place in the WAC and served up a dish of revenge in the process after losing an overtime game in Reno a few weeks ago, got only three points from its bench.

Led by Jardine, the Aggies — though playing only eight players — had 16 bench points and a 30-18 advantage in the paint.

"Both teams worked really hard," Jardine said. "Thankfully, it went our way.

Nevada opened the game with a pace much faster than Morrill was comfortable seeing. Armon Johnson attacked the basket early and often and scored 14 first-half points as he drove hard to the hoop while also hitting pull up jumpers.

Utah State, trailing 33-31 with five minutes left in the first half, switched defenses to a zone and — helped by a few timeouts — slowed the pace considerably and limited the Wolf Pack (13-9, 5-4) to just two points over the final 5:22 of the half. The Aggies hit the locker room with a 39-35 lead powered by Quayle's 10 points and 6-of-11 3-pointing shooting by the team.

And Utah State limited the Wolf Pack to just 35 percent shooting in the second half. The Aggies put the game away by hitting 13 of 15 free throws in the second half.

The win wraps up a 3-game homestand for Utah State, which now heads to last-place Boise State on Thursday and then visits San Jose State on Saturday.

e-mail: jeborn@desnews.com

Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy will miss the next three games and the All-Star game with a right hamstring injury.