LOGAN – Utah State used a home game against NAIA Warner Pacific to get back on track after its last-second loss to UC Riverside, winning 66-54 and improving to 3-3 in the most complete 40 minutes this Aggie team has played all season.
The Aggies relied heavily on Cheyenne Stubbs, who had 23 points. Right behind her, as is becoming common, was Skye Miller with 17 points, plus eight points apiece from Ivory Finley and Samiana Suguturaga. They're now 3-0 when led in scoring by Stubbs, Miller and Finley.
It was not always dominant for Utah State, which started slow and was outscored 12-9 in the first frame, but it didn’t take much longer to find a rhythm. The Aggies put the Knights in the rearview mirror in the second quarter and left them there. An aggressive USU defense suffocated Warner Pacific and shut it out for much of the second quarter – Warner Pacific only hit two shots in the entire quarter, and the first one didn’t happen until the 3:22 mark, finishing with 25-5 advantage in Utah State's favor and a 34-17 halftime margin.
The Aggies would give up a little ground in the second half, but after closing the first half on a blistering 13-2 run, it wouldn’t matter. Warner Pacific led the third quarter by a point, 14-13, but Utah State held a 66-47 lead with 1:38 to play – stepping off the gas and allowing the Knights to make the final margin a bit closer, albeit not especially reflective of the game.
One very good sign for Utah State, though it came against an overpowered foe, was its success behind the three-point line. This team has struggled even with open shots from deep this season, and showed some real signs of improvement this time around. Utah State went 8-of-44 shooting from three in its first three games combined, and nearly matched that output against Warner Pacific with eight makes on 29 tries, despite a 1-7 start in the opening frame.
Led by Miller (4-9) and Stubbs (2-4), Utah State hit 6 of 19 tries from deep (5 of 12 after the first quarter). It's a small step forward, but one the Aggies can feel good about. They've done well to score in the paint through the first six games of the season, and if they can continue to build out something of a perimeter threat, this offense would become much more dangerous.
There is, of course, room for improvement in this win. A theme for this season has been turnovers, and Utah State is still just turning the ball over far too often. It had 15 turnovers against Warner Pacific, which is still a major improvement from just about every other USU game this season, even if it isn't where it needs to be. Forcing 20 turnovers from the Knights, this was a rare win in the turnover battle for the Aggies.
Issues arose on the glass, too, with Utah State outrebounded 43-35. Rebounding has been something of a mixed bag this season for the Aggies, but with lots of long offensive rebounds against a team that launched 29 three-point tries, Utah State did not do an especially good job of boxing out on the perimeter. Every player that checked in for Warner Pacific recorded at least one rebound, and though Utah State nearly matched that (only Lillian Harris and Taylia Stimpson finished without rebounds), no one really took control on the boards. Miller and Tiairra Hill-Brown each had six rebounds, Stubbs added five, and Allyzee Verdan had four.
Stubbs and Finley led the charge as playmakers, each logging four assists, with two from Verdan (who also had two blocks). It was a good night for steals, as Suguturaga nabbed four, Stubbs had a pair, and five other Aggies notched one (Lauren Crocker, Finley, Miller, Stimpson and Isabella Tañedo).
This brief reprieve comes at a good time for the Aggies, who have a big test on the horizon from Idaho, which will visit the Spectrum on Nov. 29. The Vandals are 3-2, and recently pushed Utah Valley to the brink in an eventual 66-59 loss. Led by a balanced scoring attack while touting several very strong rebounders, Idaho will present Utah State with a nice, winnable challenge before the Aggies draw a pair of tough in-state battles at BYU (Dec. 5) and at Utah Valley (Dec. 9). With a win on Wednesday, Utah State would carry a winning record into December for the first time since 2016.
Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.