Neither Utah State coach Ryan Odom nor senior forward Brandon Horvath are strangers to the Annapolis area.
Odom was coach at UMBC for five seasons before accepting the same job at Utah State. Meanwhile, Horvath attended Southern High where he was a Capital Gazette All-County selection before choosing to play for Odom at the Catonsville school.
Both made a triumphant return to the area on the court at Alumni Hall as Utah State defeated Richmond, 85-74, in the opener of the Veterans Classic.
It was Odom’s first victory at Utah State after losing his debut Tuesday night. For Horvath, it was a “fun night” as he scored 18 points in front of about 50 friends and family in his homecoming. The 6-foot-10 graduate student has 1,023 career points after surpassing that milestone in the team’s opener against UC-Davis.
“I have lived most of my life here and toured the Naval Academy five years ago when I was being recruited, so I had a lot of fun out there tonight,” said Horvath, who also had four assists and four rebounds in the win. “There isn’t much I can say except how grateful I am to have gotten the chance to play at Utah State and the chance to come back here and play.”
Odom was pleased with the play of his team after what he called a disappointing performance in the 72-69 loss to UC-Davis.
“This was a huge win for us after the disappointing opening game at the Spectrum,” said Odom, who won 97 games and captured an America East Conference championship during his five-year stint at UMBC.
“When you have senior leaders like Justin [Bean], [Brock] Miller and Brandon, it gives the team a mentality to bounce back the way it did. These guys have won back-to-back championships.”
Bean led Utah State with a career-high 30 points, making 11 of 16 shots from the field with three 3-pointers and five free throws. The 6-foot-7 senior forward also grabbed 14 rebounds.
After trailing 43-37 at the half, Utah State outscored Richmond 48-31 in the second. The game was tied at 65 with 5:12 left, but the Aggies went on a 20-9 run the rest of the way.
“Utah State played great. We allowed them to score too easily down the stretch and too often,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “Bean and Horvath were big players for them. Horvath is a tough matchup and Bean is a great player.”
Grant Golden scored 16 of his team-high 24 points as Richmond led for 16:32 of the first half. Utah State went on a 13-2 run to open the second half and took a 50-45 lead.
The Aggies held a a comfortable 62-53 advantage with just under nine minutes to play before Richmond scored six straight points with Tyler Burton draining a 3 to give the Spiders a 63-62 lead with 7:49 to go.
The two teams traded baskets before Bean put Utah State ahead 69-65 with 4:13 to play. Consecutive 3-pointers by Bean and Horvath increased the lead to 77-68 with 2:03 to play, icing the win for the Aggies and making the return of Horvath and Odom to the area a victorious one.
Utah State shot 64% (16-for-25) in the second half and 55.4% (31-for-56) for the game and outrebounded Richmond, 40-31. The Spiders only had five turnovers and snagged seven steals. Jacob Gilyard totaled six assists and four steals to go along with 16 points for the Hokies.
“Golden is one of the best passers in the country and Gilyard is on his way to setting steal records for Richmond,” said Odom. “But our guys stuck to the game-plan.”
Horvath said it was “really great to come home” and get [Odom] his first win with the program.
Meanwhile, Odom said he he feels “blessed to be coaching such a great group of players at Utah State.
“They embraced the coaching staff when we came here. It’s been a fun journey so far,” Odom said.
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Odom’s son, Connor, is a sophomore at Utah State, but did not play against Richmond. He grew up in Annapolis and attended Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn before attending Oak Hill Academy.