LOGAN — It must be the cheese.
With a convincing 70-58 win over Southern Illinois, Utah State took home the championship in the World Vision Challenge, sponsored by Gossner Foods. It was the Aggies' 19th straight holiday-tournament championship, a streak of 41 games that goes back to 1994 when the local dairy processing plant started sponsoring the yearly tournament.
“That was a physical affair between two pretty tired teams,” head coach Stew Morrill said. “We will feel good about getting a win and winning our tournament and going to Christmas break on a good note.
"Having Kyisean (Reed) have a big game and Preston (Medlin) have two really good games in a row gave us enough to get the win."
Reed was named MVP of the tournament. Reed punished the undersized Saluki lineup, finishing with a team-high 21 points, including a couple of patented highlight reel dunks. Reed averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds over the three-night tournament.
“It is really not just my award; it is my teammates’ award as well because they had a big part in my success,” Reed said.
For a player that Morrill often criticized was invisible for stretches last year, the MVP trophy caps off a solid first half of the season for the senior forward.
“He’s been a whole different guy this year,” Morrill said. “Day in and day out he’s like he was tonight, playing his tail off. He realizes it’s his last year and he’s much more physical and active and doesn’t have the periods where he’s kind of just out there.”
Along with Reed, Medlin was named to the All-Tournament team for the Aggies. The junior guard finished with 16 points and a team-best six assists against SIU.
TJ Carpenter of Nicholls State, Desmar Jackson from Southern Illinois and Corey Hawkins and Ryan Sypkens of UC Davis rounded out the rest of the All-Tournament honors. Jackson finished with 29 points against the Aggies, carrying a cold-shooting and tired SIU team in their final game.
The hot-shooting the Aggies discovered the night before against UC Davis continued on Saturday night against the Salukis. USU finished an efficient 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and shot 60 percent from the field, including a 70 percent mark in the second half to keep Southern Illinois at bay.
“When you shoot 70 percent in a half, that gives you a chance to win every time,” Morrill said with a laugh.
For the first time this season, Utah State was outrebounded by an opponent as Southern Illinois won the rebounding battle 25-24. Marvin Jean, who made his first career start in place of Spencer Butterfield who was out with flu-like symptoms, and Matt Lopez led USU with four rebounds each.
The tournament wraps up Utah State’s non-conference schedule until mid-February when the Aggies will play BYU and an ESPN Bracketbuster opponent. The team will take a few days off for the Christmas break and then hit the road to open WAC play against conference newcomers UTSA and Texas State.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.