It was a festive night for anyone cheering on the Aggies at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Utah State bounced back from a tough road loss last Saturday at No. 9 Georgetown with a big win Tuesday night and in the process gave Aggie head coach Stew Morrill his 300th victory at the school. In a meeting of old Big West Conference foes, it was all Aggies.
The USU men's basketball team jumped on Long Beach State early and cruised in the second half. The Aggies blasted the 49ers 81-53 in front of 7,565 fans.
"Well, that was a good bounce back from Georgetown," Morrill said. "... We did a really solid job. We will take it. We had a lot of guys do some good things."
And what about win No. 300 at the USU helm?
"I really don't know what to think about that," Morrill said. "I am still working and that is good. I have a hard time figuring out what that means. I am getting old, I guess."
The 49ers (5-5) had thumped the Aggies (6-2) a year ago in California. USU came out determined from the start Tuesday night.
"We keep talking about payback on all those teams that beat us last year," said Aggie forward Tai Wesley, who finished with 16 points, to go along with a career- and game-best 14 rebounds and four assists. "Now, we got it against Long Beach State."
Not only did USU get a fast start, but LBSU (5-5) went most of the game without its head coach. Dan Monson was ejected at the 15:36 mark of the first half.
"I thought one of their players was taunting our bench several times in a row," said Monson, who spent the majority of the game in the locker room following the game on a laptop. "I know I came on the court, which is an automatic technical. You will have to go talk to the official about the second one, because I really don't know. All I did was try to explain what was going on."
One of the officials from the game - Larry Spaulding - released a statement afterward, but it just said two "Class A technical fouls" were issued for the "bench personnel committing an unsporting act."
Monson was at midcourt when he picked up the first technical and visited briefly with Morrill before being escorted up the tunnel. Morrill pulled point guard Brockeith Pane from the game and sat him for seven-and-a-half minutes.
"(Pane) might have yelled at the bench," Morrill said. "We can't have that. I am not sure what happened. I didn't see it happen. It will not be tolerated if it did happen. ... He will learn from it. He's a good kid."
After not having a player reach double figures in the scoring department in the last outing, USU had three on Tuesday night. Pooh Williams paced the Aggies with a career-best 19 points and dished out six assists. Brian Green came off the bench to score 13, joining Williams and Wesley in double figures.
"Everybody wants to score the ball, but I was just taking what the defense was giving me, just having fun and playing basketball," Williams said.
The second half was all Aggies as they went on runs of 6-0, 10-0 and 9-0, respectively. The last run was capped by a Brady Jardine dunk, giving USU its largest lead of the game, 62-32, with 9:24 left to play.
"This is a tough place to play in," Monson said. "We knew we were going to have to play well today, and we didn't do that. ... The three minutes that I was out there, we weren't playing with a lot of energy."
The 49ers, who had a two-game winning streak snapped, were led by Casper Ware with 11 points, while T.J. Robinson added 10.
USU shot 60 percent from the field in the second half and 49.2 percent for the game. The Aggies had just seven turnovers and outrebounded the 49ers 42-31. Jardine came off the bench to grab eight boards, as Nate Bendall got his first start of the season.
"It's nice to have Nate back, it gives us a different look," Wesley said. "It's not just that, then we have Brady ready to come in off the bench, and he gives us no letdowns off the bench."
The Aggies jumped on the 49ers right from the get-go. Despite missing four straight shots, USU went on a 12-0 run, holding LBSU scoreless for more than four minutes.
The surge was capped in wild fashion when Williams slammed home an alley-oop pass from Wesley. As the Aggies were going back up court, Monson went nuts. He was at midcourt when he got his first technical. Moments later he picked up the second T and was ejected from the game.
"I just know I threw a pretty good pass to Pooh for a dunk, actually it was an awful pass, but Pooh made it look like a good pass," Wesley said. "I just heard the crowd going crazy. ... I really don't know what happened."
"Honestly, I didn't see what happened," Williams said. "I just ran down the court, turned around and their coach was getting thrown out of the gym."
Williams toed the foul line and sank three of the four free throws, giving USU a 14-2 lead just four-and-a-half minutes into the contest.
"My free throws have improved from last year," Williams said. "(Assistant) coach (Tim) D(uryea) has been spending a lot of time with me on little things. Last year I used to get nervous going to the free-throw line. Now I can just relax."
The 49ers did hit back-to-back 3-pointers after Williams gave the Aggies a 19-6 lead on a trey. A third 3-pointer by LBSU got the visitors within 28-23 with 3:34 left in the opening half.
However, Williams began a 9-0 Aggie run with a drive for a layup. Williams also hit his second trey of the first half to give him 13 points over the first 20 minutes. USU took a 37-25 lead into the break.
"I was just trying to be aggressive," Williams said of his first-half performance. "Coach has been on me about being aggressive. That zone they were playing left me open. I hit a couple and got going."
Wesley had a double-double by halftime with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Pane and Bendall got the Aggies started in the second half, and they just kept pulling away.
"Going in you don't feel it's going to be that comfortable," Morrill said. "It got to a point where we felt pretty comfortable, and we were in good shape."
Twelve Aggies played, with 10 of them getting double digits in minutes. Eleven of the USU players scored in the game.
Play of the Game
It came early in the game, but it certainly set the tone for the Aggies and most definitely for the two players involved. Forward Tai Wesley lofted an alley-oop pass, which he called awful, to Pooh Williams. The senior guard/forward slammed it home, giving USU an 11-2 lead just 4:19 into the game. Both Williams and Wesley went on to have big games.
This one has to be shared. Cut the ball in half, giving Tai Wesley a piece and Pooh Williams the other. Wesley had a double-double by halftime and finished with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. He also dished out six assists and had a steal. Wesley had just two fouls. Williams scored a game- and career-best 19 points, while matching his career-high with six assists.
There were more empty seats than normal, but the students continue to turn out in force. They added a new chant Tuesday night, beginning with "Give Up" about five minutes before player introductions. They harassed LBSU guard Tristan Wilson throughout after he yelled near the students under the east basket. The familiar "Up by 20-1" and "Up by 30" chants were heard. Bill Sproat did not dress up Tuesday night. He just wore his No. 22 jersey with "Wild Bill" on the back.
"I should not have tried to dunk that one (that he missed). I should have tried to pass it for an assist."
- Tai Wesley
Utah State forward
With his six assists, Wesley moved past Reid Newey (298) and is now tied with Spencer Nelson for ninth on the career assists list with 302. ... USU had season highs in points (81), 3-point attempts (26), 3-pointers made (10), assists (24), field goals made (31) and attempted (63). ... The Aggies lead the all-time series with the 49ers 33-22. ... USU began the week with an RPI of 25 and a strength of schedule of 50.