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Utah State basketball: Aggies go cold in 2nd half against BYU

SALT LAKE CITY – For the first 20 minutes against BYU, Utah State looked like it could stand toe-to-toe with anybody. In the second 20 minutes it had the look of a very average team as BYU steamrolled the Aggies in the second half.

“We played good for a half,” Aggie head coach Stew Morrill said. “The second half BYU owned the game. Give them all the credit in the world. They were the aggressors. They hurt us on the break, driving the ball to the basket. We couldn’t get them stopped.”

The Aggies shot a blistering 59 percent in the first half but couldn’t find the same rhythm in the second half. Shooting on the other basket, USU dropped to only 35 percent. All the missed shots played right into the Cougars' hands as BYU ran the ball up and down the court and pushed a tempo that was not comfortable for Utah State.

“We couldn’t make a shot, so we couldn’t get into our zone, which really helped us in the first half,” Morrill said. “I thought when we were able to get into our zone in the first half it slowed them down a bit. We weren’t able to do that in the second half.”

The Aggies were playing their third game in a week but wouldn’t use fatigue as a factor despite the breakneck pace the game was played at. Instead, the team focused on the defensive effort, which allowed 54 points in the paint and 20 fast-break points.

“They were just driving right by us,” Aggie guard Spencer Butterfield said. “Our defense wasn’t very strong. We need to guard the ball a little better. They took advantage of that.”

It’s a factor that Morrill will take into practice for the Aggies in the coming weeks. Utah State won’t leave the friendly confines of the Spectrum in December and has a real chance to rip off another long winning streak before conference play begins.

“They manhandled us in the second half. That’s disappointing. We have to try and learn from it and get better,” Morrill said. “It’s early in the year. BYU has a really good basketball team. If we can get to where we can defend a little better we will have a nice team.”

Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.