By ROB WEILER
LOGAN – The Utah State Aggies exposed BYU’s struggling offense and showed why they are the best of the Beehive state this year in a 71-57 win over the Cougars in the Smith Spectrum.
Coming into the second half tied at 36-36, BYU (1-4) shot 32 percent from the floor for the next 20 minutes, including a seven-minute run without a field goal and a 2-for-12 performance from behind the arc.
“We didn’t attack their zone,” said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. “We had a hard time finding the ball. Our post guys weren’t aggressive asking for the ball. We were way too much on the perimeter.”
BYU’s starting frontcourt of Keena Young, Garner Meads and Jared Jensen combined for 12 points, four of which came in second half when the Aggies switched into their zone press.
“Their zone is what won them the game,” said Mike Hall, who led the Cougars with 19 points. “We didn’t attack it right.”
On the other end of the court, Utah State (4-1) pounded the ball down low to Spencer Nelson and Nate Harris, who piloted the Aggies with 14 and 26 points, respectively.
“They were getting up into us and we made some plays,” USU coach Stew Morrill said. “I thought our two veteran post guys were awfully good tonight.”
The Aggies’ outside shooting also lacked in the second half (0-for-8 on three-pointers), but Utah State found all the offense they would need in the paint and at the foul line, getting 18 attempts from the foul line opposed to six for BYU.
BYU sophomore Austin Ainge was a bright spot for the Cougars, coming off the bench to score a career-high 15 points in 30 minutes.
“Austin gave us a bit of a spark,” Cleveland said. “We did some nice things out there. We just haven’t been able to carry it over for carry over for 40 minutes yet.”
Cleveland said he is still looking for combinations that will get the job done on the floor, even if that means benching his veterans.
“Some guys that aren’t playing well need to figure that out,” he said. “I’m going to play the guys who are getting it done. When we get home, we’ll work each one of these guys. And if it means playing the freshman more minutes because other guys aren’t getting it done, then that’s what we’ll do.”
The Cougars are off to their worst start since Cleveland’s first year at BYU, with a schedule that doesn’t get any easier as the Cougars head west to play USC on Saturday.
“If I was playing a couple D-II schools right now and some schools that weren’t very good we might get a little break, but there’s no break in that schedule,” Cleveland said.
COUGAR TRACKS: Jimmy Balderson made his first appearance for the Cougars this season. The sophomore planned on redshirting this year, but played 11 minutes and scored six points … Cleveland tried another new lineup on Wednesday, inserting Meads back into the four-spot.