LOGAN, Utah (AP) - Jared Quayle, Utah State's point guard and leading scorer, uncharacteristically had three fouls in the first half against Brigham Young. But coach Stew Morrill said he just couldn't have Quayle start on the bench in the second half.
"We talked about not starting him, but I didn't want to mess with his confidence," Morrill said of Quayle, who went on to lead his team with 22 points. "I didn't know, though, he would end up going the whole way."
After the 71-61 victory, Morrill called the game a "defensive battle" and said his team "hunkered down" on the defensive end.
"I thought the game was really, really physical," Morrill said. "We guarded pretty dang hard the whole game."
After committing 17 turnovers against BYU last season, the Aggies had just nine miscues Wednesday. Controlling the ball prevented the quick Cougars from running past USU for easy buckets, Morill said. BYU is averaging 11 steals per game this season.
"We did a much better job of taking care of the ball tonight," Morrill said.
Morrill said his team's coverage of BYU forward Jonathan Tavernari was key. Tavernari scored 24 points in BYU's 68-63 win over USU last season but was held to just four points on 1-of-11 shooting Wednesday night.
Quayle scored 18 of his 22 game-leading points in the second half and teamed with freshman Preston Medlin to hit three consecutive 3-pointers and push USU to a 54-46 lead at the 10:55 mark.
"My defense usually gets my offense going," Quayle said. "I think all the fouls in the first half got me out of sync, but we got some key stops in the second half that got our offense going.
"When I went coast to coast, it was a good feeling and I felt like it gave me energy."
BYU coach Dave Rose said his team, which led 35-32 at halftime, couldn't find any second-half rhythm.
"We were slow coming off screens, we didn't make good adjustments," Rose said. "It broke our spirit for a while and we couldn't come back."
He also said his team often settled for quick perimeter shots in the second half rather than attempting to "attack the basket."
"But give the credit to USU," he said. "They made us speed up our shots a bit."
BYU shot 46 percent from the field the first half, 50 percent from the 3-point line, while in the second made just 8 of 26 shots (31 percent).
"It's nice to be at home," Morrill said of the sold-out Smith Spectrum. "We love this kind of atmosphere. The crowd was big-time tonight."