SALT LAKE CITY - Carlon Brown and Jared Quayle put on quite the show for the 9,699 fans Wednesday night as the Utah Utes defeated the Utah State Aggies 68-67.
Brown scored 14 of his career-high 22 points in the second half, including seven straight for the Utes in a key stretch to keep the Aggies at bay. Quayle led all scores with a career-high 27 points and kept the Utes from pulling away by hitting several tough shots late in the second half. Like Brown, Quayle did most of his damage in the final 20 minutes, scoring 20 of his 27 in the intense second half. Quayle also led all players with 11 rebounds.
Utah started the game off quickly, leading the Aggies 21-16 midway through the first quarter before both teams started to struggle. The Aggies ended the first half on a 13-5 run to take a 29-26 lead into halftime. Utah in particular went cold, hitting just 34.5% of their shots in the first half, and just 29% from behind the arc. The Aggies were not much better hitting 42.3$ of their shots and just 16.7% from three. Solid defense and outstanding work on the glass allowed the Aggies to jump out to their halftime lead, as they out-rebounded the taller Utes 21-15 in the first 20 minutes. "We've got to work on rebounding," Utah head coach Jim Boylen said.
The first half was a game of runs, as each team had spurts of good basketball. Utah State started the game of extremes with a 7-0 run to take a 12-10 lead early on. Utah responded shortly thereafter with an 8-0 run that game them the 21-16 lead before the Aggies ended the half with their 13-5 run.
The Utes had a tough time getting the ball into the paint, and were not helped by both centers picking up two quick fouls in the half. David Foster and Jason Washburn were limited to four points and four rebounds in the first half and combined for just 10 points and five rebounds in the game. Foster did block four shots and altered several more in his 15 minutes of play. Fouls plagued the Utah bigs all night long against the more physical Aggies frontcourt players.
Utah came out a different team in the second half and began aggressively attacking the Aggie defense that stifled them in the first half. "We have a thing in our locker room, 'PPTPW' - Players Play, Tough Players Win," Boylen said about his halftime adjustments. "I really talked to my team at halftime about trusting each other and playing through possessions. We lost like four or five where we got a stop and then we didn't get the ball. We got a block, we got a deflection, the ball's in the paint and we didn't pick it up. Good teams make those plays, they finish off the possessions. That happened against Idaho, we didn't finish off possessions whether it was an offensive rebound or a loose ball. That's what I talked to my team about; we talked about sharing it and trusting."
Brown in particular came out aggressively driving, which ended up resulting in points and eventually the win for the Utes. "Carlon came to life," Boylen said of his star player. "I thought he started trusting guys which helped teammates make tough shots. I thought they were shots in the offense. I thought they were shots from assists, some of them were creative, but I thought the force he played with in the second half was better and I thought he was in the game defensively better, which a lot of times raises your offense. Carlon's a dynamic player, Carlon's a big-time player."
"I tried to drive and attack more," Brown said of his second half performance. "I just wanted to stay aggressive, keep shooting the ball, keep trying to find guys open if I could and just shoot. That's what I've been working on all summer and that's what I tried to bring into the game."
One big play in the second half came courtesy of a senior player making a big-time play. With just over nine minutes left in a tie ball game, Luka Drca jumped into the passing lane and knocked the ball away from Jaxon Myaer, who reached out and grabbed Drca before he could pull away, leading to an intentional foul. Drca hit both free throw attempts, giving the Utes their first lead since a 23-22 lead with 3:15 left in the first half. "I was aggressive, and I just cheated the play," Drca said with a smile. "That was a terrific play," Boylen said. "He's a tough kid, a terrific defender, and he does that late in games."
Brown and Quayle really shined over the next few minutes, matching each other basket-for-basket, point-for-point until Brown scored his final points on a 12-foot jump shot, giving the Utes a 58-56 lead with 4:26 left in the ball game. Though the Utes did not trail from that point on, the Aggies kept the game close and had their chances to tie or take the lead late in the game.
After a Jason Washburn lay-up put the Utes up by four, 64-60 with under a minute to play, Tyler Newbold responded with his only points of the ballgame, a jumper in the paint. Brian Green fouled Marshall Henderson on the in-bounds pass, and Henderson hit 1-of-2 free throws, giving the Utes a three point lead. Kim Tillie was called for a foul on Quayle, who sunk both free throws to cut the Utah lead to one, 65-64, with 26.3 seconds left.
Already an intense game, the teams found a way to take it up another notch. Drca was fouled on the in-bounds pass by Quayle and calmly sunk both shots to put the Utes back up by three, 67-64. Newbold missed a straight-away three and a fierce battle for the loose ball ensued, which found its way into the hands of Quayle, who missed on a fade-away three from the right corner. Tillie was finally able to track down the ball and Quayle picked up his fifth foul. Tillie missed his chance to put the game away, missing the first of two free throws before making the second giving the Utes a 68-65 lead with just eight seconds left on the clock. Myaer hit a three with two seconds on the clock and the Utes were able to get the ball in play and run out the clock.
"Boy … I thought when we swung the ball around the perimeter and Carlon Brown made that three from the left slot by our bench - I can't remember the time of the game (5:00 left, put the Utes up 56-54) - I thought that the game changed when all of our guys realized, you know what, we share it we're going to win this game," Boylen said when asked if there was a play that stood out to him as the game changing moment. "I think that was a big play. I think that sign of trust, we're moving, we're sharing, really helped our team."
Utah State had won 30 straight games when leading at the half
Quayle tied his career-high with his 11 rebounds, recording his fourth career double-double
Drca had a solid overall game, scoring 11 points, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out six assists to two turnovers and stealing the ball twice
Shawn Glover was active in his six minutes, pulling down three rebounds, two offensive, recorded a steal, and scored on a put-back off an offensive rebounds
Henderson scored all eight of his nine points in the first half. His lone point in the second came on his free throw attempts