Montana Western Utah St Basketball FOLLOW

Montana Western guard Jamal Stephenson (1) takes a shot as Utah State forward Justin Bean defends in and exhibition game earlier this sesaon. Bean was named the MVP of the Myrtle Beach Invitational Sunday after the Aggies won the tournament.

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This first public test for the Aggie men’s basketball team showed that the meshing of newcomers and veterans have learned to play together quite quickly.

In Utah State’s 81-51 exhibition win against NAIA Montana Western, the Aggies finished with 22 assists. They shared the ball well as seven different players recorded a dime.

“This team cares about one another,” USU head coach Ryan Odom said. “They are willing passers. We need to champion that and grow that aspect of our team. ... We want to play together. You saw that tonight. Assists are always an indicator of that, not completely, but a lot of times. When you get 22, you are passing the ball. Obviously, you have to make the shots.”

Utah transfer Rylan Jones and Aggie veteran Justin Bean each had five assists. Another long time USU player Brock Miller had three, while newcomer RJ Eytle-Rock also dished out three.

“We have a great chemistry all ready,” Bean said of Horvath.

All six dunks by USU in the game came off nifty passes. Brandon Horvath was the most frequent recipient as he finished with four slams. Bean had the other two.

How did Horvath feel playing with Bean?

“Playing with Bean is an easy mix since the first day,” Horvath said. “We both pass the ball, both rebound the ball, both shoot the ball. It’s a good mix.”

Coupled with the 22 assists, the Aggies had just 11 turnovers.

“I would love to have less turnovers,” Odom said. “Some of the turnovers were unforced and in situations where we were trying to do too much or do it too quickly. We want to play fast, but at the same time if we don’t have it we don’t want to try and create it, if it’s not there. ... We got better with our execution down the stretch. This is a smart team.”

Bean had a strong outing with a double-double. The senior forward led the team in points (21) and rebounds (10). He also had the before mentioned five assists, while blocking two shots and coming up with two steals.

“For us, Justin (Bean) was Justin,” Odom said. “He’s an impressive player and never quits. At one point I asked him if he needed a break and he said no. I love that as a coach. Even if he is tired, and he’ll let you know and come out of the game, but he played the entire second half until the end. He was tremendous.”

Bean was asked about his blocks following the game.

“It was fun being a rim protector,” Bean said.

Bean is enjoying the new offense.

“It is free flowing,” Bean said last Wednesday. “We feel like everyone can take their shot, and everyone is capable of shooting the ball. If they are open, they are going to shoot it.”

The Aggies have now had two outings to go against other competition than themselves. They played a team in a closed scrimmage several weeks ago and then the exhibition on Wednesday.

“We scrimmaged SMU earlier (Oct. 16) which was a good thing for us,” said Horvath, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots against Montana Western. “Playing in front of this crowd was great, good experience for me. I’m excited for the season.”

There is plenty to work on before the season opener against UC Davis on Nov. 9.

“We didn’t start the game like we wanted to,” Bean said. “The second half we did a better job on defense.”

It was a good starting point for the Aggies.

“We were a little up and down, but it was good to get started,” Odom said.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at or 435-792-7233.

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