Aggie’s bench leads the way in blowout win over Bradley – Cache Valley Daily


Steven Ashworth. Photo by Clint Allen

LOGAN – Utah State’s bench players stole the show in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum Friday night, led by Steven Ashworth’s career-high 28 points, in an 84-62 win over Bradley.

Aside from Ashworth’s 28, the Aggies got 15 points from sophomore wing Zee Hamoda and 10 points, 11 rebounds from Dan Akin. None of those three players are starters on the team right now.

“Zee came in and gave us great minutes defensively. Dan came in and gave us some great minutes defensively and made some key baskets, too,” Odom said. “You can’t ignore Steven’s game tonight off the bench. He was incredible. Which is one of the reasons we put him there is, like, Steven’s fine whether you start him or bring him off the bench. He’s going to play his game and play it the right way.”

The contributions from the bench were big in breaking the game open and giving the Aggies control. Utah State began the game cold, missing its first five shots of the game and starting 2-for-11 from the field overall. But stellar defense kept Bradley from taking advantage. The Braves started 2-for-14 themselves, allowing the Aggies to have a 6-4 lead despite its ice-cold start from the field.

As Ashworth, Hamoda and Akin subbed in, the offense began to click. USU went on a 21-5 run to give the Aggies a 27-9 lead over Bradley. Of the 21 points in that run, 18 were scored by either Ashworth, Hamoda or Akin.

“We have a really good bench,” Akin said. “We have like three or four guys that are coming off the bench right now that could potentially start. It just shows how good our depth is.”

Bradley didn’t take that run lying down, steadily cutting the lead from 17 down to just eight in a span of three-and-a-half minutes – from 27-9 to 34-26. The referees began calling fouls left and right. The balance of fouls wasn’t much in favor of either team (Aggies were called for just one more foul than the Braves in the first half), it’s just that there were 29 of them called in the opening 20 minutes, slowing the game down.

“Credit to them for figuring out a way to get to the line,” Odom said. “That obviously slowed the gave down significantly and they were able to play their little press and we weren’t able to get out and go. We weren’t getting stops at that point and so they were able to trim the lead a little bit.”

Utah State got the lead back up to double digits going into halftime 45-32, but seemed to end the half with a whimper. Coming out of half the Aggies certainly weren’t in trouble (13-point lead and all) but could certainly use a momentum shift. That came, unsurprisingly, from the bench. After Rylan Jones picked up a quick foul 30 seconds into the second half (his third of the game to that point) Ashworth came back in and sparked the offense once more. He scored eight points in the first five minutes of the half, including six straight that featured a 3-pointer and then drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt (and sinking all three free throws). He simply couldn’t be stopped either from deep (5-of-9 from 3-point range) or from getting to the free throw line (11-for-12 from the charity stripe for the night).

“Some nights I think you it just feels like that, you feel like you’re throwing rocks in the ocean and you can’t miss. Tonight was one of those nights,” Ashworth said. “I had a really good morning workout with Matt Hart. Shot was feeling well. Free throws were feeling well. I knew that if I was aggressive I’d get my chances to get to the free throw line which is always great for a shooter and I did that and I think it helped with the rest of my game.”

That flurry by Ashworth put the Aggies up by 20. The lead topped out at 22, and while Bradley had a couple of solid runs, including a 9-0 one, the lead never fell below 13 and even jumped back up to 22 by the final buzzer.

Ashworth didn’t break his career-high (previously 27 at Weber State last year) until just over two minutes left in the game. With the ball on the left wing, Ashworth pulled up from deep behind the 3-point line and buried the shot, lifting him from 25 points to his eventual 28.

“I honestly can’t remember the play we called,” Ashworth said of that pull-up three. “I know that (the Braves) were kind of talking about a switch. I heard them call it early and there was some confusion and so I thought everything else has dropped tonight so why not this one. I honestly don’t’ even know how far away I was, but from the reaction of the crowd I think it was pretty far.”

Of the starters, Taylor Funk had the best night statistically, scoring 13 points with eight rebounds and three blocks. Trevin Dorius also had a solid night with six points and six rebounds. Sean Bairstow struggled to score after having 19 points in the opener. He went 1-for-7 with just four points. Max Shulga had seven points on 3-for-6 shooting to go with six rebounds.

Utah State’s next game will be a third straight home game. On Monday, Santa Clara will come to town. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Spectrum.







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