No. 21 Utah St. 71, Fresno St. 55

Coming off its first loss in 26 conference games, Utah State

bounced back in a hurry.

Nate Bendall scored 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed

eight rebounds as the 21st-ranked Aggies ran past Fresno State

71-55 on Saturday night to clinch at least a share of the WAC

regular-season title.

Fueled by a 23-2 run to end the first half, the Aggies rebounded

from a 64-56 loss Wednesday night at Idaho that snapped their

25-game WAC winning streak. They shot only 34 percent from the

field in that game, including 5 of 28 from 3-point range. This

time, Utah State made 60 percent of its first-half attempts and

finished 7 for 16 on 3s.

”Tonight we made some 3s but didn’t fall in love with the 3,”

coach Stew Morrill said. ”But we aren’t celebrating yet. We want

to win it outright.”

Brian Green also scored 13 points off the bench for Utah State

(23-3, 12-1 Western Athletic Conference), while Pooh Williams and

Tai Wesley had 10 apiece.

The Aggies were outscored by Fresno State 36-31 in the second

half, which Morrill was quick to point out.

”We played really well the first half and the first 5 minutes

of the second half,” he said. ”But I told these guys we need 40

minutes, not 25.”

The Bulldogs (11-14, 5-8) were led by Nedeljko Golubovic with 15

points and freshman Bracken Funk with 14, the third consecutive

game Funk has reached double figures.

Utah State has won 31 straight WAC games at home and 39 of its

last 40 overall. The last WAC team to beat the Aggies in Logan was

Fresno State on March 3, 2007.

The Aggies have won 29 in a row at home, however, the

third-longest active streak in the nation.

Fresno State forced turnovers with a full-court press and pulled

within 53-37 with 8:19 remaining after Steven Shepp made a

3-pointer, the closest the Bulldogs had been in the second half

after trailing by 21 at halftime.

”We really need to string two halves together,” Bendall said.

”It’s a cliche, but practice is the key. It’s just a mindset and

down the stretch we need to make it happen every game.”

Fresno State forced 12 turnovers but was only able to grab 21

rebounds to 36 by the Aggies. Utah State led by as many as 26 in

the second half.

Utah State scored 30 points in the paint while Fresno State was

limited to 16 on 20-of-48 shooting from the field in the game.

”Our bigs early on were not playing with any aggression

whatsoever,” Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland said. ”We missed

out on six or eight points early in the game where we could have

made a run, but didn’t. When you are 1 foot from the basket you

should score and we didn’t.”

In the first half, the score was tied three times and there were

seven early lead changes as the teams traded baskets. Fresno State

used a zone to slow the Utah State offense and led 13-12 with 10:55

to play.

The Aggies then went on a 7-0 run behind Green’s first 3-pointer

and a dunk by Brady Jardine. Utah State extended the surge to 23-2

and led 40-19 at halftime.

”The inside game is fundamental for us as a team. If we can get

the inside game going early, they have to respect that and our

outside shooters get some open looks,” Bendall said.

Green, a reserve guard who went 5 of 5 on 3-pointers and scored

25 points against San Jose State two weeks earlier, shot 3 of 6

from the field Saturday.

”It was nice to hit some shots and get off that goose egg,”

Green said. ”I haven’t scored in the last couple of games, but

that’s OK. I don’t really care about points as much as winning. We

could have played better in the second, but it was good to get out

of the slump.”

The Aggies will play two non-conference games next week,

including an ESPN BracketBuster game at St. Mary’s, before closing

out their home schedule against Idaho on Feb. 26.

”This win is pretty good, but we want to win it outright. We

don’t want to tie,” Green said. ”I think we’ll get it done. We’ve

got a big week next week, so we need to worry about that

first.”

Utah State has won at least 23 games in each of the last 12

seasons under Morrill.