During the week leading up to Utah State's meeting with No. 9 Utah, Aggies coach Stew Morrill kept a low profile, holding closed practices and declining all interviews.
After his team's performance on Wednesday night, he might never show his face again.
Donnie Johnson scored 18 points and Troy Rolle had 11 as Utah State shocked No. 9 Utah 62-54. The Aggies thoroughly outplayed their in-state rivals, and Utah coach Rick Majerus' descriptions of his team as overrated and inexperienced suddenly seem quite plausible.
"We caught Utah early in the year," said Morrill, who left Colorado State for Utah State last summer. "I'm awfully proud of our guys ... but both of these teams are going to get a lot better as the season goes on."
The Utes, who advanced to the NCAA championship game last spring, now head to next week's Maui Invitational with a host of questions. They held a 49-45 lead with 4:25 to play, but the Aggies (2-0) ran away with the game by scoring on their last eight possessions.
"A lot of the guys felt overconfident," Utah forward Alex Jensen said. "Some of us came in with an arrogance."
Even preseason All-American Andre Miller, who had 18 points and seven rebounds, couldn't save Utah (1-1) from its own mistakes. The Runnin' Utes shot 34.4 percent from the field, made 11 turnovers, committed 21 personal fouls and were 4-for-22 on 3-pointers.
"I think maybe I overworked them," Majerus said. "We ran into a highly motivated team."
The Aggies frustrated Utah with a matchup zone that prevented Hanno Mottola and Jensen from getting the ball inside. The two forwards were a combined 10-for-31 from the field, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers.
"We did everything we got prepared for," Rolle said. "The hard defense was the key."
| Utah State's Pharoah Davis (34) holds on to the ball as Utah's Alex Jensen (50) attempts to block his shot. (AP) |
"We knew (Morrill) would (use a matchup zone)," Majerus said. "He did that at Colorado State. ... You have to give USU credit for a helluva game."
After the final horn, the Utah State fans stormed the court and formed a solid cheering mass. Dozens of fans also taunted the Utah players as they left the court, shouting "Overrated!" in their faces before being restrained by security.
"The crowd was fabulous. Holy smokes, were the students into it," Morrill said. "We made some plays with their encouragement."
One fan was rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack in the stands.
Allick scored seven consecutive points and put the Aggies up 52-51 on a 3-pointer with 3:14 to play. Jensen's 3-pointer reclaimed the lead for Utah, but Tony Brown made another 3-pointer for Utah State.
Johnson's free throws with 1:39 to play gave the Aggies a 57-54 lead. Utah State hit six consecutive free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"Last year's team, we would have stopped them," Jensen said.
"We had too much on our mind," Mottola said. "You've got to forget it and move on."
Utah, the defending Western Athletic Conference champs, endured a 6:10 scoreless drought midway through the second half during which Utah State, the defending Big West Conference champs, took a 43-38 lead.
But Miller led the Utes back with four points and two assists on four straight possessions, and Jeremy Killion's steal and layup with 7:34 to play gave Utah a 45-43 lead.
Miller scored 15 of the Runnin' Utes' 28 first half points. Rolle had nine for Utah State, but Tyson Johnston's free throw with no time remaining gave Utah 28-27 halftime lead.
Utah State's undefeated streak at home reached 27 games, the second-longest in the nation behind Kansas. The Utes had their five-game winning streak against the Aggies snapped.
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