Friday, January 29, 2010

Utah State -- Saturday night -- in Logan

The WAC basketball season began on a pair of low notes for Logan-ites, with the result being some actually clamoring for a pushing of the panic button. Yes, the hoops sky was falling for the longtime WAC power, what with a 55-52 opening conference loss to host New Mexico State and then a veritable plastering in Ruston, 82-60, versus Louisiana Tech.

The whispers, along with some shouts, were "Stew's too old" and "Stew [Morrill] can't recruit" et al, lamenting that the long time Aggie mentor was no longer the right person for the position.

While it can't quite be called 'instant karma" for these rushers of judgment because it took a couple of weeks but all is currently copacetic at Utah State. Apparently, Morrill has somehow gotten younger and his scholarship players are somehow performing quite well with the squad in the midst of a four-game league winning streak (versus Hawaii, Nevada, Boise State and Fresno State).

What is also ominous for the Spartans is that the Aggies have enjoyed a week of practice at home since playing January 23 in Moscow, Idaho. Legs are no longer tired, nagging injuries have receded and the Aggie game plan hasn't been rushed into hasty implementation. Translation: the Aggies are rested and ready. The Spartans are coming off a Thursday victory and a Friday flight to Utah.

USU's WAC schedule/results

1/02/10 @ New Mexico State L, 55-52
1/04/10 @ Louisiana Tech L, 82-60
1/11/10 vs Hawai'i W, 98-54
1/13/10 @ Nevada W, 79-72 (OT)
1/16/10 v. Boise State W, 81-59
1/21/10 @ Fresno State W, 69-43

Utah State's Starting Five

6-foot-9 Nate Bendall - He's the replacement for Gary Wilkinson, smaller and certainly not as dominant at 7.9 ppg. and 3.7 rpg. -- he does shoot well from both the floor and foul line but needs setting up

6-foot-7 Tai Wesley - Call him the enforcer on the court, he's also the bestAggie inside shooter and rebounder at 11.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg. -- plus, he has taken the most foul shots on the USU roster due to his aggressiveness

6-foot- 3 Pooh Williams - Always a worthy defender, he really helps the Aggies when his shot is on

6-foot-4 Tyler Newbold - He's more a long distance shooter (30 of his 45 shot attempts are treys and he's but 8-10 at the foul line) -- he is also good on the boards at six a game

6-foot-1 Jared Quayle - the leader scorer at 12.0 ppg., he shoots the most on the team and is at 45% overall, plus 46% from long range (half of his shots are three-pointers) -- what is surprising is that he's taken just nine foul shots in seven games

The Cavalry

6-10 Modou Niang - he is getting on the court more (now close to 10 minutes a game) as his production is improving and his mistakes lessening -- he from Senegal but attended high school in Japan

6-foot-8 Matt Formisano - one of Bendall's fill-ins, he has placed less since WAC play commenced

6-foot-1 Brian Green - his scoring has been up and his shot on of late (on the season he is 22-33 shooting overall, 13-19 on three-pointers)

The Aggie Roster, by position

Preston Eaton 5-10/170 Guard FR
Brian Green 6-1/195 Guard JR
Preston Medlin 6-4/165 Guard FR
Jaxon Myaer 5-9/165 Guard SO
Tyler Newbold 6-4/210 Guard JR
Jared Quayle 6-1/180 Guard SR

Pooh Williams 6-3/200 Guard/Forward JR

Nate Bendall 6-9/245 Forward JR
Matt Formisano 6-8/240 Forward JR
Morgan Grim 6-8/220 Forward JR
Brady Jardine 6-7/220 Forward SO
Tai Wesley 6-7/240 Forward JR
Tyrone White 6-6/175 Forward FR

Modou Niang 6-10/220 Center SO
Anthony DiLoreto 7-1/230 Center FR (redshirting)

What To Expect

Pooh Williams made Nevada's Armon Johnson work extremely hard in the Aggie comeback win over Nevada and our expectation is that he will match up with Adrian Oliver (although Tyler Newbold is another solid defender and possibility)

- In a way, it's close to mysterious that a team whose leading scorer is at 12 ppg. is so successful but it's obviously working for the Aggies

- Every team is a system one but Utah State much more than most offensively, utilizing multiple screens to get open for jumpshots rather than dribble-drives -- it's currently 103 assists for USU on the season to 81 for the collective WAC opponents

- Utah State is shooting 50% overall as a team in WAC play while holding opponents to just 39% -- with San Jose State's hot shooting of late, especially from long distance, something has to give one way or the other Saturday night

- Surprisingly, the Aggies have committed 83 turnovers to 78 for opposing WAC teams -- something unusual for any Stew Morrill squad

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