It was a second half to remember for the Aggies Friday evening.
Utah State rallied from a six-point halftime deficit and overcame a scoring drought in the second half to notch the first victory of the 2021-22 men’s basketball campaign. In the process, first-year head coach Ryan Odom got his first W at the USU helm.
The Aggies used an 18-3 run to take the lead for good and cruised to a 85-74 win against Richmond in the Veterans Classic held at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
“I think they (players) got me with more than water,” said Odom, who was a little wet after a victory dousing in the locker room. “That Gatorade tastes good.”
Justin Bean patted his new head coach on the head as a press conference was getting underway.
“Obviously, a huge win for us coming off a tough game, a disappointing opening game in the Spectrum,” Odom said. “When you have games like that, you tend to doubt yourself and wonder what’s happening, but when you have senior leaders like Justin Bean, like Brock Miller, our two captains who have been through a ton of games, won back-to-back championships in the Mountain West, they know how to win. They know how to bounce back from disappointment.
“And players like Brandon Horvath as well. He has been through some huge games for us and championships as well at UMBC.
Trailing 65-63 with five-and-a-half minutes to play, the Aggies (1-1) hadn’t scored a field goal in nearly four minutes. They did end a 2:30 dryspell with a free throw by RJ Eytle-Rock. Then it happened.
Rylan Jones drove into the lane and was able to get a bucket to fall in traffic. The field goal would spark a critical 18-3 run for USU.
Bean made a layup on a fastbreak off a nice, long pass from Eytle-Rock to give the Aggies a 67-65 lead at the 4:45 mark. USU just kept on scoring after that.
Bean had two rebound buckets, and then Brandon Horvath got into the act with back-to-back 3-pointers off passes from Jones. Steven Ashworth and Bean each made a pair of free throws to cap the surge, giving the Aggies a 81-68 lead with 55 seconds to play.
“Justin said in a timeout that UC Davis had scored on the last five possessions to win,” Odom said. “In practice we play a game called score stop pretty much every day. It’s an important game in practice, because it really hammers home that it’s not just about scoring, but you have to get a stop. The cool thing for me is I didn’t even have to say anything, he (Bean) said ‘score stop.’”
The Spiders (1-1) kept launching 3-pointers — they made 14 of 32 for the game — but not enough found the bottom of the net in the closing minutes.
Bean put the exclamation point on the game for USU with a dunk off a long pass from Jones. Bean finished with a career-high 30 points and recorded his 28th career double-double as he grabbed a game-best 14 rebounds.
“We are not being sharp enough in the first half,” Bean said. “We had to come out, stay together and play our basketball. Coach talks about getting our shots. That’s what we did an shared the ball.”
Bean was joined by a trio of teammates in double-digit scoring. Horvath, who was playing in front of friends and family as he is from Maryland, scored 18 points, making 4 of 6 shots from long range. The 6-foot-10 forward also had four rebounds and four assists. Trevin Dorius came off the bench to add 11 points, and Jones scored 10, while dishing out a team-best five assists.
“I was super excited to come home and take on the challenge of playing a really, really good team,” Horvath said. “It was exciting to get coach Odom his first win.”
Grant Golden had a big game for Richmond with 24 points and eight rebounds. He was joined in double-figure scoring by Jacob Gilyard (16) and Tyler Burton (13).
“We wanted to disrupt as much as we could near the basket,” Odom said. “They are good passers and you need to cut down on the back cuts around the rim.”
In the other game of the doubleheader at the Veterans Classic Friday, Virginia Tech beat host Navy, 77-57.
For the second straight game the Aggies got their first points from a Bean 3-pointer. However, the Spiders built a 18-11 lead in the early going as they made five 3-pointers to start the game.
USU enjoyed its first lead of the contest, 25-24, on a Trevin Dorius dunk with eight minutes before the break.
Richmond reeled off seven straight points to get back in front and took a 43-37 lead into halftime. The Aggies had enjoyed being in front for a grand total of 12 seconds over the first 20 minutes.
USU went on a 13-2 win to start the second half as Miller hit back-to-back buckets, and Horvath got rolling with seven points. Horvath drove in for a layup as the shot clock expired to give the Aggies a 50-45 lead with 15:19 to play.
A Horvath trey gave USU a 62-53 lead with 9:11 left in the game. It was looking good for the Aggies.
The Spiders had one more run in them. They scored 10 unanswered points to take a 63-62 lead with 7:47 to play.
USU pulled out of the nose dive and put together the game-deciding run.
“Our guys stuck with the game plan,” Odom said. “They played together. When you see our guys play on offense, they really share the ball. They care about one another. They are fun to watch because they compete. They never give in. That’s what you witnessed tonight.”
Utah State won the rebound battle, 40-31. ... The lead changed hands seven times during the game and their were seven ties. ... The Aggies had eight turnovers, half of their total from the season opener, and finished with 17 assists. ... The USU bench outscored the Richmond reserves, 17-15. ... The Aggies shot 55.4 percent from the floor, including 44.4 percent from 3-point range (8 of 18) and made 78.9 percent of their free throws (15 of 19). ... This was the first meeting between the Aggies and Spiders.
This might become a regular thing, but Bean gets the nod for the second game in a row to start the season. The senior finished with a career-high 30 points, which was also a game-best, on 11 of 16 shooting from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range and 5 of 7 from the free throw line. He also recorded his 28th career double-double, as he grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Bean also had an assists, blocked a shot and came up with a steal in 39 minutes of action.
AGGIE DUNK/CHARGE COUNT
Dorius came off the bench and threw down the first dunk of the game with eight minutes left in the first half. The 7-footer added another just before halftime off a rebound. In the second half, Bean took a long pass from Jones and put the exclamation point on the game.
There were no charges taken.
Season dunk count: Dorius 2, Bean 2.
Season charge count: Jones 4, Horvath 1.
The Aggies will stay in Annapolis for a couple of days before heading south to Conway, South Carolina, where they will play in the Myrtle Beach Invitational. USU takes on Penn (0-2) next Thursday at noon in the first of three games at the tournament