Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spartans @ Utah State Friday, 6 p.m.

Utah State is Utah State, year-in and year-out. Stew Morrill has his system (screen, screen, screen and then screen) until an open shot is accessed or Tai Wesley can muscle inside. Defensively, the Aggies play physical and boast Pooh Williams, the returning WAC Defensive Player of the Year who will probably be the prikmary matchup against Adrian Oliver. It's a style and squad of talents who play to their strengths, understand their individual and team boundaries and minimize weaknesses.

The Aggies, owning 11 straight 23-win plus seasons, are 12-2 overall this go-around, 9-0 in the vaunted Spectrum, where Wild Bill Sproat is enthroned. That's Bill up at the top in a game last season versus Hawaii -- let's see what he drapes over himself versus the Spartans.

Hawaii preceded San Jose State into The Spectrum, falling 74-66. UH lost the rebounding battle 32-13, was doubled up in free throw attempts 15/30 but did shoot 62% against the Aggies. Wesley posted a double-double of 27/13 and will be a very difficult matchup on Friday.

Utah State is allowing but 57.4 points per game, a number primarily due to their style of play but also the quality of opponents faced this season. Minus Hawaii, the last six opponents have totalled 58 or less points come the final buzzer.

The Aggies are shooting 46% so far this season -- down a bit or them -- while allowing opponents to be successful just 38% of the time.

Getting personal, the WAC coaches selected Tai Wesley as the Pre-Season Player of the year , with Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams as second-teamers -- almost exclusively for their defensive play. Stew Morrill's squad received eight votes as the top team -- New Mexico State received the other. However, the media chose Adrian Oliver as Pre-Season Player of the Year, with Tai Wesley a first-teamer and junior college transfer at the point Brockeith Pane awarded Newcomer of the Year honors.

The USU Starting Five

* Nate Bendall 6-foot-9 -- 5.4 ppg., shooting 52% overall, 4.5 rpg., he's coming off a foot injury and playing about 20 minutes a game

* Tai Wesley 6-foot-7 -- 13.8 ppg., shooting 64% overall, 8.2 rpg., only foul trouble limits his productivity

* Pooh Williams 6-foot-4 -- 9.5 ppg., shooting 40% overall 37% from three, half of his shot attempts have been treys

* Tyler Newbold 6-foot-5 -- shooting 40% overall, 28% from long distance but these are improved numbers from earlier, 40 assists to nine TOs

* Brockeith Pane 6-foot-1 -- 9.7 ppg., shooting 35%, 28% from three, has 27 assists to 30 TOs, 54 free throw attempts is second on the team

Off The Bench

* Brady Jardine -- 8.3 ppg., shooting 56% from the floor, 8.6 rpg. leads the team

* Brian Green 6-foot-1 -- 11.6 ppg., shooting 48% from three-point range, 71 of his 106 shot attempts have been three-pointers

* Morgan Grim 6-foot-8 -- inside muscle, more offensive than defensive rebounds

* James Walker 6-foot-2 -- a freshman learning the ropes, 16 assists to nine TOs. shooting 30%

The Schedule so far

In the games that Utah State has lost, Tai Wesley went 1-6 from the foul line in the 78-72 road loss to BYU plus Nate Bendall didn't play. In the 68-51 loss in D.C. to Georgetown, Wesley fouled out with 10+ minutes remaining and GT led just 33-29 at the half.

11/13/10 vs. Weber State W, 77-65
11/17/10 at BYU L, 78-72
11/20/10 at Southern Utah W, 66-53
11/24/10 vs. Utah W, 79-62
11/27/10 vs. Northeastern W, 56-54
12/01/10 at Denver W, 61-53
12/04/10 at Georgetown L, 68-51
12/07/10 vs. Long Beach State W, 81-53
12/11/10 vs. Cal State Bakersfield W, 77-58
12/18/10 at Utah Valley W, 76-58

World Vision Invitational Tournament, Logan, Utah
12/21/10 vs. Idaho State W, 71-48
12/22/10 vs. Western Michigan W, 78-57
12/23/10 vs. Troy W, 80-39
12/29/10 vs. Hawai'i W 74-66

The Aggie roster (alphabetized, by position)

Antonio Bumpus 6-3/185 Guard JR (redshirting)
Leon Cooper Jr. 6-1/170 Guard FR
E.J. Farris 6-2/185 Guard SO (walk-on)
Brian Green 6-1/200 Guard SR
Preston Medlin 6-4/175 Guard SO
Tyler Newbold 6-5/210 Guard SR
Brockeith Pane 6-1/195 Guard JR
Steve Thornton 6-5 200 Guard Fr (grayshirting)
James Walker 6-2/180 Guard FR

Pooh Williams 6-4/190 Guard/Forward SR

Nate Bendall 6-9/250 Forward SR
Brad Brown 6-6/190 Forward RS FR
Ben Clifford 6-7/220 Forward FR
Matt Formisano 6-8/240 Forward SR (walk-on)
Morgan Grim 6-8/230 Forward RS JR
Brady Jardine 6-7/220 Forward JR
Tai Wesley 6-7/240 Forward SR

Leland Miller 7-1/230 Center SO (walk-on)

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