Without two of its top three scorers, Utah State was critically wounded. The Aggies were far from dead though, and were able to break out of a four-game skid with a 77-67 win against Idaho Thursday evening in the Cowan Spectrum.
The Vandals made a sloppy mess out of the game’s first seven minutes and led by one of the nation’s premier coaching minds, the Aggies started well and held an 18-3 lead, outmuscling Kyle Barone down low and swarming Connor Hill at the 3-point line.
The Vandals, led by the Stew Morrill-influenced mind of former Aggie assistant Don Verlin, did manage to reel off an 8-0 run which saw Hill convert from about three feet beyond the arc before a Barone put back dunk ensued and Hill would connect on his 100th career 3-pointer to bring the Vandals within seven.
What entailed was anything but ideal for Verlin, against a longtime companion in Morrill.
“I got my butt out-coached tonight,” Verlin said. “They were way ahead of us all night long, no question about it. We couldn’t guard them — the bottom line is everything we tried, we couldn’t get them stopped.”
In any other game, Idaho may have been labeled as a team too reliant on the 3-point shot. But on Thursday, on a night when Barone wouldn’t have his way with Shaw, the Vandal sharpshooters left the green light on.
Idaho cut the deficit to two points, but a Marvin Jean trey aided the visitors in protecting their 31-25 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
Shaw’s presence had an overbearing effect on Barone, who had double-doubles in four of his previous five games. Playing in the shadow of the 6-foot-10-inch Aggie center, Barone posted 11 points and had just seven rebounds after averaging 26 points and 16 rebounds in two games last week.
His opponent posted 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
“The zone offense, we didn’t know what to do, we got back on our heels and kind of hard to fight back from it,” Barone said.
In terms of Shaw, Barone admitted the game’s leading scorer posed a major threat, offensively and defensively.
“Defensively they double every time, they just got him on the iso and he made shots,” he said.
With about a minute and a half remaining, the Aggies played a game of keep away with the Vandals, who finally fouled Spencer Butterfield on a made layup.
This was after Idaho went seven minutes without scoring from the field and allowing the Aggies a 15-2 run.
If Utah State hadn’t put the game out of reach already, Butterfield completed the 3-point play and the Aggies led 72-58 with just more than a minute to play.
The final result may have been foreseeable for the now 4-6 Vandals.
“They were a mile ahead of us as far as the game plan and kicked our tail on the boards, they physically dominated us in the paint,” Verlin said. “They played very well tonight, which you knew they would.”
For the Vandals, Hill went 4 of 7 from 3-point range and along with junior Stephen Madison, led Idaho with 14 points.
Theo Lawson can be reached at email@example.com