SAN ANTONIO (ABC 4 Sports) - Junior guard and Texas native Preston Medlin netted a season-high 24 points while fellow junior, guard/forward Spencer Butterfield tied his season-high with 14 points to lead Utah State men's basketball to a 71-67 win over UTSA Saturday night at UTSA's Convocation Center in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
USU improved to 10-1 for the first time since 2008-09 and the seventh time in school history, as well as moving to 1-0 in WAC play for the fifth time in its eight years in the league. Overall, the Aggies improved to 5-3 in WAC openers, winning their last three in a row and five of the last six after dropping its first two WAC openers.
UTSA suffered its sixth loss in its last seven games, falling to 4-7 overall and lost its inaugural WAC game, as the Roadrunners are in their one and only season in the WAC. Saturday was also the first-ever meeting between USU and UTSA.
The Aggies shot a season-high 62.2 percent (28-of-45) from the field, hitting 5-of-11 (45.5 percent) from three-point range, overcoming a season-low 47.6 percent (10-of-21) outing at the free throw line.
The Roadrunners were 25-of-64 (39.1 percent) field goal shooting, making 11-of-29 (37.9 percent) behind the arc and 6-of-9 (66.7 percent) at the charity stripe.
Medlin, a native of Carrollton, Texas who was born in San Antonio, posted his season-high 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, hitting 3-of-7 from distance and 3-of-4 at the free pitch stripe. Medlin has now scored in double-figures in each of the last three games and it was his eighth double-digit outing this season and 40th of career. He has also posted 20 or more points twice in the last three games, and has done so 15 times in his career. After not making more than two three-pointers in the first eight games of the season, Medlin has now made three or more treys in the last three games, and now has 23 career games with three or more three-pointers.
Butterfield tied his season-best for the third-straight game played with 14 points, after missing the Aggies' last game with an illness. He also hit his lone three-pointer, and it was a big one in the waning minutes from deep in the right corner. Butterfield also added seven rebounds.
Junior center Jarred Shaw, who is a native of Dallas, Texas, was one rebound shy of his fifth double-double of the season with 11 points and a game-high tying nine rebounds. Senior forward Kyisean Reed added nine points and six rebounds. After out-rebounding the opponent in the previous nine games of the season, the Aggies have now been out-rebounded in the last two contests, as UTSA had a slight, 32-31 rebounding edge.
UTSA was led by 20 points by Jordan Sims, hitting 6-of-8 from three-point range, while Kannon Burrage added 14 points and Jeromie Hill tossed in 12 points to go with matching Shaw with nine rebounds.
After the Roadrunners took an 8-2 lead, the Aggies stormed back with a 10-0 run, starting by back-to-back treys from Medlin and freshman guard Marcel Davis netted a bucket for a 12-8 USU lead with 15:03 to go. Junior guard TeNale Roland hit a layup for a 21-16 Aggie advantage with 10:14 to play, but UTSA went on a 13-4 spurt to take a 29-25 lead at the 5:29 mark after a layup by Hyjii Thomas. Davis drained a three and Medlin hit a free throw to knot the score at 29-29 with 4:42 to go in the half, and from there, USU closed out the half on a 10-2 streak, as Reed hit an old-fashioned three-point play with 1:02 left and Medlin netted a three-point shot with four ticks to go, giving USU a 39-31 lead at halftime, as the Aggies improved to 8-0 this season and have won 74 of its last 76 games when leading at the half.
UTSA cut the gap to 49-45 with 12:37 on the second half clock on a layup by Hill, but Rolad later hit a free throw to stretch the Aggie lead back to a palindromic 54-45 at the 10:00 mark. The Roadrunners trimmed the margin to two, but couldn't get any closer until 4:51 on the clock when Burrage hit a jumper to pull UTSA within, 61-60, but Shaw drained a jumper on the Aggies' ensuing possession and USU hung on for its conference-opening win.
The Aggies will remain in Texas, heading East-bound down I-35 to San Marcos, Texas for a match-up with another WAC newcomer, Texas State, on Monday, Dec. 31 in a 3 p.m. (MT) tip-off. Fans can follow the game on the radio on the Aggie Sports Network, as well as listen on the Internet, and follow along with "Watch Live" and "Listen Live" links at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
After Monday's game at Texas State, USU returns home to host another league newcomer, Seattle, on Thursday, Jan. 3 and old conference foe, Idaho, on Saturday, Jan. 5. Both games are slated for 7 p.m. tip-offs at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.