It was a wild ride, but in the end the Aggies were able to breathe a sigh of relief after their opening game at the Myrtle Beach Invitational.
Penn gave Utah State all it could handle and in fact it took 10 extra minutes to decide who was moving on to the semifinals of the tournament. The Aggies came up big in the second overtime and made critical free throws down the stretch to grind out a 87-79 victory Friday afternoon in Conway, South Carolina, at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina.
“It was a great win for us,” said Aggie forward Justin Bean, who finished with game bests in points (33), rebounds (16) and steals (4). “We knew they were going to be a tough out, they’re a very talented team, well-coached. They can shoot the ball really well and we knew that it wouldn't just be given to us, we had to earn it.”
It was the second straight game that Bean has bettered his career mark in scoring as he had 30 last Friday against Richmond. He matched his career high in rebounds. Bean came into the game as the reigning MW Player of the Week and was also the top scorer and rebounder in the tournament.
“I thought Bean was amazing and I thought Rylan (Jones) was fabulous throughout,” USU head coach Ryan Odom said. “Clearly the day belongs to Justin and his effort. His willingness to give his body for his team, his willingness to chase rebounds, his ability to be a go-to guy for us at key times was the difference in the game, and it allowed us to outlast them at the end.”
The Aggies (2-1) needed every point by Bean, especially to get to overtime and then the second extra period. The Quakers (2-3), who were playing their fifth game in eight days, rallied from being down 12 points in the second half and had a chance to win in regulation, but a 3-point shot was off the mark.
Near the end of the first OT, Penn’s Max Martz hit a shot that was first ruled a 3-pointer but after review it was changed to a 2 as the tip of one of his feet was on the line. That proved big as USU failed to score in the final 27 seconds.
In the second OT, Jones scored first, and the Aggies never trailed again. Jones had eight of his 21 points in the second overtime and made all four of his free throws in the final 23 seconds of the game. Bean had the other six points by USU in the second OT and was also perfect at the foul line, sinking four.
“The free throw shooting was really important to us,” Odom said. “In our first game that we lost, we were 17 of 28. That left a bad taste in our mouths. In this game, our guys went up to the line and knocked it home. We do have some really good free throw shooters.”
The Aggies made 17 of 19 foul shots on Thursday.
With the win, the Aggies move on to the semifinals where they will play New Mexico State Friday morning. New Mexico State used a 10-0 run to end the game and beat Davidson, 75-64.
“It was a great college basketball game, and we were blessed to share the court with Penn and coach (Steve) Donahue’s team,” Odom said. “It was an out-and-out battle. We were able to get a lead in the second half, and they came storming back. It seemed like that was the afternoon and the way the game was going to go.”
Joining Bean and Jones in double-digit scoring was Brandon Horvath (14) and Brock Miller (11). Horvath left the game with a sprained ankle, but returned to finish the contest. He grabbed several of his eight boards in the closing minutes of the second OT. Jones and Bean both had four assists to lead the team.
The Quakers were led by Jonah Dingle with 31 points, 27 of them after halftime. He came into the game averaging 19.0 ppg. The only other Penn player to reach double digits was Martz with 12. Jelani Williams led his team with seven rebounds and a game-best seven assists.
“That was a great college basketball game,” Donahue said. “The kids on both sides played their hearts and it was evenly matched with big play after big play. There were a few weird things that happened. Lucas (Monroe) slipping on the floor on a wet spot after he gets a great steal. Can’t fault the effort. I think we could have been a little better executing the offense, but I give Utah State a ton of credit. They have tough kids and Ryan (Odom) does a great job. … I thought we guarded well but the kid Bean is an amazing kid. His story coming from a walk-on and he’s undersized. He just competes like no one else in college basketball. Obviously, Jordan (Dingle) was terrific. And he makes a great pass to Max Martz which we thought was a 3 and possibly a game-winner, but his toe was on the line.”
Horvath gave the Aggies the early lead, scoring the first points of the game on an inside move to the bucket. Points were hard to come by in the early going as USU was 3 of 10 from the field over the first five minutes of the contest. Penn was 2 of 8 during that stretch.
The Aggies built a 12-4 lead six-and-a-half minutes into the game when Miller drilled a 3-pointer off a pass from Bean. Then Bean converted a three-point play, getting rewarded from a Miller pass.
Penn went on a 7-0 run as USU went 3:42 without scoring, turning the ball over four times during that timespan. Williams made a pair of free throws to give the Quakers a 17-16 lead at the 7:27 mark.
USU responded with Bean taking a pass from RJ Eytle-Rock and drilling a 3-pointer. Bean then scored again off a pass from Horvath as the Aggies surged to a 21-17 lead. But the Quakers hung tough.
Over the final seven-and-a-half minutes, the lead changed hands four times and the game was tied three times, including at the break, 28-28.
“In the second half we had to make some adjustments,” Bean said. “We really got going in the first 10 minutes (of the second half), we got on a little bit of a run. Then we got a little comfortable and started letting them get loose on the 3-point line and not getting our hands up ready and it cost us. We had to fight back and stay together. I’m just happy we came out of here with a win.”
The Aggies did slowly start to build a lead as the second half got underway. Horvath and Steven Ashworth hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and Jones sank a pair of free throws to give USU its largest lead of the game, 50-38, with 11:56 to play.
The Quakers proceeded to go on a 16-4 run to get back in front. A four-point play by Dingle gave Penn a 56-55 lead with 4:55 left in regulation. It was close the rest of the way until late in the second overtime.
“We’re kind of on a fact finding mention about ourselves and every game that goes by, we find out a little more,” Odom said.
In overtime games, the Aggies are now 62-47 all-time and have won seven of the last eight. … It’s been more than 10 years since USU played in a double-overtime game, winning at Hawaii on Jan. 29, 2011. … Four Aggies played more than 40 minutes, including Justin Bean (50), Rylan Jones (47), Brandon Horvath (43) and Brock Miller (41). Those minute-totals were career highs for all four players. … USU improved to 19-7 in tournament play over the last three years, which includes conference tournament action and the NCAA Tournament. … The Aggies come up with some big rebounds in the second overtime to edge the Quakers in total rebounds for the game, 41-40. ... The game was tied nine times and the lead changed hands 10 times. … With his 29th career double-double, Bean is now tied with Jimmy Moore for seventh on the all-time list at USU. ... This was the first meeting between these two schools.
Justin Bean is the obvious choice after another career outing, but sure he wouldn’t mind sharing. Rylan Jones gets the nod. The guard scored 21 points and was a perfect 10 of 10 from the foul line, making four in the final seconds of the second overtime. Jones also had four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 47 minutes of action. He had 12 of his points in the two overtimes.
AGGIE DUNK/CHARGE COUNT
There were no dunks by the Aggies.
Rylan Jones took two charges, with one coming in the late stages of regulation and another in the first OT.
Season dunk count: Justin Bean 2, Trevin Dorius 2.
Season charge count: Jones 6, Brandon Horvath 1.
The Aggies move on to the semifinals of the MBI where they will take on former conference foe New Mexico State on Friday at 10 a.m. It will be a battle of the Aggies. NMSU (3-0) beat Davidson in its game Thursday, 75-64.