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No. 1 Aggies put exclamation point on season with 15th straight win

March 9th, 2010 Posted in Sports

By Chris Romriell

LOGAN—A sold-out crowd at the Glen Dee Spectrum cheered USU basketball senior Jared Quayle Saturday night as the Aggies faced the New Mexico State Aggies in the last regular-season game of the year before the WAC championships.

The last time they met NMSU’s Aggies, in the first WAC match of the season, USU lost. But after starting 0-2 in conference play, USU won 13 straight conference games, and the Aggies were looking to put an explanation point on their already secured regular season WAC championship Saturday.

And that final exclamation point was emphatic, as the WAC champs—USU’s third straight—avenged their earlier loss to New Mexico  State, 81-63.

USU’s only senior, Quayle got off to a slow start, but in his final game in the Spectrum, he sparked a huge run in the second half, helping the Aggies win their 14th straight conference game to end the season and Quayle’s Spectrum career.

NMSU started the game with a tough full court press, which bothered the Aggies enough to keep them scoreless for the first 3:30 of the game. NMSU’s defense led the visitors to a 9-2 lead early on.

USU’s Brady Jardine provided a needed boost off the bench, nabbing two steals and making two blocks, helping USU to its first lead of the game with 10:34 to go in the first half.

USU struggled from outside in the first half, shooting only 1-7, but Tai Wesley dominated the paint. Wesley shot a perfect 5-5 and scored 12 of his 24 points in the first half while grabbing four offensive rebounds.

“That’s one positive thing about our team, when our outside [game] isn’t going ,we can dump it inside and our big guys are high percentage shooters, they’ll finish for us,” Quayle said.

A technical foul on NMSU guard Jahmar Young helped the USU gain momentum going into halftime, and along with 10 points scored off NMSU turnovers, USU held a 34-30 lead at the half.

The second half started off slow for both teams, but even with NMSU’s continuous full-court press, USU was able to stretch its lead to 10 five minutes into the second half.

NMSU pulled back within 6 before Quayle took over, scoring 10 straight points for the Aggies—including two key 3-pointers—which brought the Spectrum crowd alive. Quayle’s command of the court helped the Aggies build their lead to 26 with less than five minutes to play.

As Quayle ends his career with USU, coach Stew Morrill had only good things to say about his only starting senior. “He leads us in rebounding, doesn’t hardly turn it over, jumps up and makes some critical shots,” Morrill said. “He’s a very solid defender, his all-around game is as good as I can remember having in a point guard, when you look at rebounding ability to score.”

Solid defense helped build USU’s lead as the northern Ags held NMSU without a field goal for more than seven minutes.

The win sends the Aggies into next week’s WAC Tournament in Reno as heavy favorites. “It’s a very simple game: play good defense, execute offense, put the ball in the hole and you’ll win,” Quayle said.

“Just defense—that’s what it has been about all year long, just our defense,” Quayle said. “We got into it, and made them take tough shots, and that was the key to the second half.”

As Quayle left the Spectrum’s court for the last time with 34 seconds to play, a standing ovation and chants of “Jared Quayle!” filled the arena. Quayle said that he had chills going down his back as he went to the bench.

“It’s been two great years here,” he said. “I’ve had great coaches and great teammates. It’s a great place to play and I’ve loved it.”

After the game, USU forward Tai Wesley spoke about Jared Quayle, and the experience playing with him over the past two years.

“Jared is such a great guy, great player. He’s the silent killer,” Wesley said. “You can’t say enough about Jared Quayle, he just goes out gets his job done and goes home happy.”

USU started WAC play with two tough losses, but came back strong to win the last 15 games of the season, including a huge bracketbuster against Wichita State.

“It’s unbelievable, just going from 0-2 in the conference to winning the conference outright is awesome,” Wesley said. “We are really clicking right now, we need to continue that all next week.”

The Aggies head into the WAC tournament as the No. 1 seed, with the hopes of securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. Morrill says the Aggies deserve an NCAA spot no matter what happens in the WAC tourney.

“I really firmly believe, if you win 14 straight league games to win your conference championship, and your league is ranked tenth out of 30-plus conferences, you should be in,” Morrill said. “I don’t care what happens next week, you should be in, and that’s all I am gonna say about that.”

Aggie basketball players are great role models, Morrill said. “They go to class, they get their education. They’re high-character, and it’s what [the game] is supposed to be about.”


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