The team showed fire, chemistry and execution that we've rarely seen this year. They looked like the team that so many of us believed they could be all this time. As hard as it was to see Brady Jardine in uniform on the bench, still unable to play, the team looked like they were playing with the type of fire that I've felt he would have brought to this team all along had he been healthy this season.
Regardless of the reasoning, it was just fun to watch and to be a part of. Everything about Aggie basketball this senior night felt like the Aggie basketball we all know and love. Really, by the end of the game, the only thing that didn't feel pretty much perfect was the lack of Jardine in the game.
After the emotion of honoring the seniors, the rollercoaster ride that this team has repeatedly ridden this season, began. Idaho came out with some serious fire, led by a former one of our own, Deremy Geiger. To top it off, the Vandals' defense was completely smothering the Aggies. The feeling in the crowd seemed to sink from something of excitement to the bracing for possibility of getting blown out at home.
Through the first 17 minutes of the game, USU scored only 14 points, slipping behind the Vandals, 14-29. Then the Aggies sunk three straight baskets, all with the help of some assists and closed the scoring gap to a 22-29 halftime deficit.
I can only speculate on how things went at halftime for the team, and that's exactly what I'm going to do.
We've seen this team look like they were coming together to be a good team a few different times this season. The chemistry was there against BYU, and looked to really be coming together at the Gossner's tournament. For the most part though, this team has hardly seemed to click, especially not since the spring semester started.
My best guess (and the thing that would make for the best scene out of a movie) would be that the team took a look at each other during halftime and saw something much more than just a handful of individuals... They saw something bigger than any single person. Something that, despite all the losses and hard times this season, that so many fans showed up to make for one of the best atmospheres you can have at a sporting event.
They saw that they represent what so many people are willing to stand behind. And they saw that if they give the fans something to be excited about... well... dammit they'll get pretty balls-to-the-wall excited.
Again, that's all pure speculation, but don't tell me it doesn't make for a sweet story.
A minute and a half into the second frame of the last game in The Spectrum this season, USU had rounded off a 14-0 run to bring itself within one point of the Vandals. From that point on, it was "#Medlinsanity" as the kids are calling it. Preston Medlin took over a game in a way that I don't think I've seen since the night Jaycee Carroll scored 44 on New Mexico State back in 2007. Pre-Med either scored or assisted on 10 of the Aggies' final 16 field goals.
It wasn't just Medlin though, the whole team just looked in control. For the first time in a long time, maybe all year, they had some swagger. There was stretch during the second half where the Aggie offense looked like a well-oiled machine and the Vandals' defense was helpless and flustered. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!
There were a few times when USU was extending its lead that a stupid mistake or two cast that doubt that has hung over the team for so much of this year. Unlike so many other games though, the team played through it all and made up for mistakes with stellar defense. When it was all said and done, USU finished the game on a 53-21 run after they went down by 15 points.
Final score: Aggies 67, Vandals 50.
What more can be said about Brady Jardine that hasn't already been said? If you ask me, I'd say "plenty."
Since news broke of his injury being career-ending, I've seen and heard countless comments about how Jardine is among people's favorite Aggie basketball players ever. Some even regard him as an Aggie legend, to which I'll be the last guy to argue that. For a guy who averaged 5.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his career, to be so deeply beloved by both the community and fan base is a mark of his character as a person just as much as it is a basketball player.
For a guy to have made that kind of an impact like he has is truly something special. For the worst of luck to have fallen on him of all people is what made for a whole lot of cheers and tears Friday night on his behalf.
He graduates with two very impressive claims to his name: Highest win percentage of any USU player ever, and the greatest dunk in the history of Utah State basketball. Still, we all wanted to see what he could do to finish it all off. To see a guy with his heart as big as his have his playing career taken away from him because of injury is hard for anyone to see.
The fact that nothing of his basketball career, personality or community presence seem the slightest bit underappreciated is a great thing to see.
Speaking of great basketball players... Preston Medlin is an absolute monster of a talented basketball player. Tonight he scored a new career-high 32 points, 27 of the coming in the second half when the team needed to cap off a comeback. It turned into a blowout behind Medlin's leadership. He matched his previous career-high in the second half alone and moved up to No. 3 in the WAC in scoring along the way. He also tied for the team-lead in rebounds with eight, and dished out five assists.
Stats aside, you can tell the dude just loves the game. Once he gets rolling, he just feeds off that success and builds on it even more, which is a pretty ideal attribute for a player who calls The Spectrum home. If you want some entertainment, check out the USU website's photo gallery from senior night for some classic pictures of Medlin getting stoked on his made shots.
The next couple years with him are going to be pretty freaking fun.
- Danny Berger's shot has been inconsistent at best this year, but he does a lot of other things to really help the team out. Tonight, he fully went Danimal Style on the boards, tying for the team-high with eight rebounds.
- I'll take 12 points and seven assists from Brockeith Pane ANY DAY!! Shooting 4-of-12 from the field was "meh" at best, but still a solid game. And don't look now, but Pane has quietly boosted his 3-point percentage to a semi-non-horrible 31.4 percent. If he were to get hot from deep, sayyyy, in the WAC Tournament, things could get fun!
- Say what you will about Morgan Grim (and plenty of people have plenty to say), but the guy is better than anyone I've seen in an Aggie uniform at taking a charge. He's just got that instinct to know how to be in that right place at the right time.
- Watching Adam Thoseby tonight really just makes me wonder all sorts of things. I see potential there for a solid, smooth ball-handling wing. I just wonder what it is that's kept him off the floor so much this year.
- Kyisean Reed's hops are filthy.
- Having quicker, more mobile big men like Idaho has makes it tough for Jordan Stone to see much of the floor. Still, he continues to look like he belongs. Now if we can just get him to start muscling some b****es down low and backing guys down.
- Again, big ups to the whole team for looking like a legit Aggie basketball team Friday. If they put it all together and pull a miracle at the WAC Tournament, I'll one-up the Mufasa pic with one of Simba throwing Scar's bitch-ass off of Pride Rock. (I know, I know... How could the team turn down that offer?) Tonight, the Aggies looked like more than what they have become. Tonight, it was Aggie basketball remembering who they are!!
Player of the Game: Preston Medlin