Utah State Holds Off Morehead State, 79-72, Monday In Basketball Travelers Invitational Action

Dec. 21, 2009

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LOGAN, Utah - Junior forwards Nate Bendall and Tai Wesley netted 18 points each to lead Utah State to a 79-72 win over a pesky Morehead State squad Monday in the Aggies' opener of the Basketball Travelers Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

The Aggie men's win capped a full day of action at the Spectrum Monday, which started with the USU women beating Weber State, 72-51. The Weber State men opened the Basketball Travelers Invitational with an 82-71 win over Cal State Fullerton before the USU men closed out action with the victory over Morehead State.

Utah State improves to 7-4 with the win, the Aggies' third win in their last four games, improving to 3-1 on the season and 55-17 over the last 11 years following a loss. Morehead State drops to 4-5, as the loss snapped the Eagles' two-game win streak. Monday night was just the second-ever meeting between USU and MSU, with the Aggies beating the Eagles back in 1965 in the first-ever meeting.

The Aggies also improved to 35-1 all-time in tournaments they host as they improve to 4-0 in the Basketball Travelers Invitational, 26-0 in the Gossner Foods Holiday Classic (1994-2007) and 5-1 in the Big Blue Classic (1971-72, 1982).

Bendall added to his career-high points outing with a career-high five blocks Monday night, while Wesley pulled down a game-high tying eight rebounds. Junior guard Tyler Newbold added 15 points, netting four of the five three-pointers he attempted, to go with four assists, three behind the game-best seven by senior guard Jared Quayle.

Morehead State had five players in double-digits, led by Steve Peterson's 16 points, while Kenneth Faried and Terrance Hill added 14 and 12 points off the bench, respectively. Demonte Harper also tossed in 12 points. Faried matched Wesley for game-high rebounding honors with eight boards, as MSU had a slight, 28-26, rebounding edge, the first time this season that Utah State had been out-rebounded.

The Aggies shot 56.5 percent (26-of-46) from the field, netting half of their three-pointers (6-of-12), to go with 70.0 percent (21-of-30) at the free throw line as USU entered Monday leading the nation in free throw percentage (79.5 percent).

The Eagles hit 50.9 percent (29-of-57) of their shots, including 66.7 percent (20-of-30) in the second half, as well as 5-of-15 (33.3 percent) behind the arc. MSU was 9-of-11 (81.8 percent) at the charity stripe.

USU started the game with a 15-4 lead with 12:22 on the first half clock after a three-pointer from Newbold in the corner, but Morehead State cut the gap to 22-21 with 5:38 to go on a three-pointer by Hill, capping a 14-5 Eagle run. The Aggies stretched their advantage to 32-34 at halftime, as neither team scored in the last 2:19 of the half.

At the 15:12 mark, Newbold hit a three-pointer from the right wing in front of the Aggie bench for a 48-33 USU lead, its largest of the night, but the Eagles wouldn't go quietly into the night. Down 56-42, MSU reeled off nine unanswered points, starting with a dunk by Faried and ending with a Harper jumper to pull within 56-51 with 8:44 to play.

Harper later hit a jumper at the 3:59 mark to pull MSU to 66-63, but a Wesley three-point play gave the Aggies some breathing room, as they stymied the Eagles' rally by hitting six-of-eight free throws in the final 44 seconds.

Morehead State will open Tuesday's action of the Basketball Travelers Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods, taking on Weber State (6-5) at 5:30 p.m. (MT). Utah State will face Cal State Fullerton (4-4) at 8:05 p.m. (MT).

Wednesday's schedule pits Morehead State against Cal State Fullerton at 5:30 p.m. (MT) before Weber State and Utah State close out the Invitational at 8:05 p.m. (MT).

For Basketball Travelers Invitational sponsored by Gossner Foods ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305, or online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the "buy/renew tickets" under the "tickets" drop down menu.



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