A Perfect Start To The Season For Utah State

The #OccupyTheSpectrum movement proved to be successful Friday night as the Utah State Aggies defeated the BYU Cougars in front of 10,270 rabid fans in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Over 1,400 die hard Aggie students set up tents and camped out just outside the Spectrum beginning on Tuesday night, and were rewarded with a very satisfying victory on Friday night.

The game was a good one from the very start as BYU and Utah State exchanged buckets for the majority of the first half. The Aggies took a two point lead into halftime up 30-28. BYU’s height advantage and disciplined zone defense proved difficult for the Aggies to handle in the first half. In the second half things began to change as Utah State made halftime adjustments to go on a 17-2 run and take a commanding 55-44 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. BYU made several late game buckets to keep the contest somewhat in reach, but Utah State continued to knock down clutch free-throws (for the most part) and came away victorious.

USUStats.com players of the game

1 – Brockeith Pane. After starting off a bit shaky with some ill-advised shots and passes in the first half, Brockeith showed exactly why he was picked by the media as the preseason WAC player of the year. His defense, passing, and scoring ability led the Aggies to a huge second half effort. Brockeith also receives the play of the game in our book with his suffocating pressure of BYU point guard Brock Zylstra. On several consecutive possessions in the second half Brockeith caused Zylstra to either turn over the ball, or get flustered enough to disrupt the offensive flow resulting in either a turnover, or ill advised shot. After causing a huge turnover and breakaway points, a panicked Dave Rose called timeout. The Spectrum faithful remained animated and on their feet as the players returned to the floor only to see Brockeith immediately smother Zylstra in the backcourt, stealing the ball, and driving in for a layup. This was the beginning of the end for the Cougars.

2 – Brady Jardine. Brady’s leadership and athletic ability proved valuable in the victory. Anyone remember the St. Mary’s game last year? Anyone remember “The Dunk”?

Brady’s breakaway dunk against BYU last night was reminiscent of the nail-in-the-coffin play that made every SportsCenter highlight reel last year, and culminated with a eardrum shattering roar from the Spectrum crowd. His defensive pressure on BYU’s two quality big men, Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock helped push the Aggies to victory.

3 – Preston Medlin. Many of you will remember how huge Preston was in the 2009 game against BYU. As a true freshman, Medlin provided a spark off the bench, coming up with two huge three pointers and the confidence and desire to win that the Aggies needed that night. One of my all-time proudest moments in the Spectrum was watching Preston give it his all in boxing out BYU’s center Chris Miles despite weighing 70 pounds less than him. Here’s a quick video reminder of that great moment:

Moving ahead to 2011… While his shot wasn’t falling in the first half last night, Preston made a huge impact on the game in the second half, once again hitting a huge 3-pointer to give the Aggies the lead for good at 45-42. He capped it off with another three late in the game and finished with 15 points.

4 – Mitch Bruneel. Talk about huge! Just when it seemed like no one on the Aggies could hit a shot in the first half, Mitch checked into the game and proceeded to hit two huge three pointers and another jump shot to give the Aggies some confidence just when the game seemed to be slipping away. Despite not starting the first half, Mitch got the nod to start the second due to his maturity and veteran leadership. The man he replaced, Steven Thornton also came up with a big play in the second half with a Pooh Williams-esque slashing drive to the hoop for two. It will be fun to watch this one-two punch develop over the season. Who will get the start next game? That’s anyone’s guess at this point.

5 – Morgan Grim. The hatchet man had another solid game for the Aggies last night providing hard-nosed play, and solid defense on BYU’s big men. While Morgan’s game doesn’t always look pretty, he seems to quietly get the job done. His veteran leadership helped keep the team together and seal up another Aggie home victory.

Up next for the Aggies

Yes, the Aggies came up with an ENORMOUS victory to start off the season, but things will not get easier from here. In a few short days, Utah State will travel to The Purple Palace in Ogden to take on the Weber State Wildcats. Weber State is a formidable foe, picked as the preseason favorites to win the Big Sky. Brockeith Pane will have another challenge on his hands with Weber State’s star point guard Damian Lillard. Not only that, but the Ogden squad is coached by a Stew Morrill disciple in Randy Rahe. There will be no surprises in the offensive or defensive schemes. If the Aggies can go into Ogden and come out victorious… well… let’s just say that I will be extremely happy and excited for the rest of the season. Hopefully the #occupythespectrum crew will fire up the Spectrum on Wheels and make the short trip to Ogden and cheer the Aggies on to victory.

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