It will be interesting to see how both the Aggies and Spartans respond Wednesday in the second and final game of their men’s basketball series.
Monday night was a beat down. There is no way to sugar coat it.
Other than a brief 39 seconds in the early going, Utah State had the lead. It wasn’t just the lead, but a very large advantage. Up by 21 at halftime, the Aggies enjoyed a 49-point lead at one point and went on to beat San Jose State, 107-62, in the Mountain West Conference opener for both. And it wasn’t even that close.
Here goes. USU (4-3 overall, 1-0 MW) shot better from the field (season-high 51.8 percent to 32.9 percent), from 3-point range (35.5 to 23.1) and from the free throw line (66.7 to 47.6). The Aggies outrebounded the Spartans (1-3, 0-1) 59-36, had more assists (27 to 9), blocked more shots (7 to 6), had more steals (7 to 4) and less turnovers (9 to 13). USU also scored more points in the paint (52 to 20), more points off turnovers (22 to 6), more second-chance points (27 to 13), more fast break points (13 to 2) and more points off the bench (51 to 32).
Yes, it was total domination. Now the question is, how will game two on Wednesday go?
“The sign of great teams is how do you respond the next game,” Aggie head coach Craig Smith said. “When things go really, really good or really bad, what’s your mindset for that next night out?”
USU and SJSU will face each other again in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. with limited fans allowed to attend.
“For us, we don’t take losing lightly, so I’m sure they (Spartans) are going to go to the film room and make adjustments,” Bean said. “Coach Smith has preached to us to be ready for anything. They are a long team and can shoot it when they are on. ... We need to come in with the same mindset.”
While the blowout was not expected, it was welcome in a way. The Aggies have been wanting more production out of the bench. There was plenty of opportunity on Monday.
No starter played more than 23 minutes. In fact, Justin Bean and Neemias Queta played 20 and 15 minutes, respectively. The duo still filled up the final stat sheet.
Bean had his third double-double of the season and 20th of his career with a team-best 16 points on 8 of 10 shooting and grabbed a game-best 11 rebounds, while also matching his season high with four assists.
“We just took what the defense gave us,” Bean said. “For me personally, hitting a few jumpers caused the defense to close out and opened up some driving lanes. I was able to drive and get to the rim and finish. I thought we all did a good job on attack tonight.”
Queta was perfect from the field (3 of 3) and from the foul line (2 of 2) for eight points. He grabbed nine rebounds, tied his career high with six blocked shots, had a season-high five assists and came up with a steal.
Other starters made their presence felt in the shortened minutes too. Brock Miller had a season-high 14 points, Rollie Worster dished out a career-high seven assists, and guard Marco Anthony had 12 points, throwing down three dunks.
“We just played really connected,” Smith said. “... Bean was really good all night, really set the tone. I thought Queta was really, just look at his stat line. All of our guys were on. ... The starting five set the tone. ... They especially came out to start the second half with some vigor. We need that out of those guys.”
All 15 Aggies that dressed saw action with 12 of them scoring, 13 getting at least a rebound and 10 picking up an assist. Looking at the scoring, it was a banner outing for USU’s reserves. If you throw out the 37 points against NAIA College of Idaho, the Aggies have combined for 49 points off the bench in the five games against Division I opponents before Monday’s 51-point effort.
“I’m really happy with a lot of guys,” Smith said. “Our bench was very good. ... They just need to keep on learning and keep moving forward.”
Steven Ashworth led the bench with 10 points and four assists, while host of others set career and season highs in scoring, including Alphonso Anderson (9), Zahar Vedischev (8). Max Shulga (6) and Szmon Zapala (3). Trevin Dorius had a season-high 10 rebounds, while also scoring eight points and coming up with a career-high three steals. Sean Bairstow drew praise from the head coach for his seven points, three rebounds and two assists. Zapala also grabbed a career-high six rebounds.
“There is no better feeling than seeing your boys going and playing the game they love,” Bean said. “It just shows how talented we are and how deep our bench can be. Everyone was ready to go from the get go. It was good to see them out there and be a cheerleader for the second half.”
The Spartans were led by Richard Washington with a game-high 20 points. However, 13 of those points came in the final 12 minutes of the contest and after USU had built a 75-31 lead. Washington came into the game third in the nation in scoring, averaging 26.3 points a game.
The only other SJSU player to reach double figures Monday night was Sebastian Mendoza with 11 points off the bench. All-league guard Seneca Knight was held to seven points, six below his average on the season.