Monday, January 24, 2011

Utah State comes to town Thursday night

What's new with 18-2/7-0 Utah State besides 13 consecutive wins? Try an entrance into the latest ESPN/USA TODAY Coaches poll at #25.

The Aggies are headed to San Jose for a Thursday night matchup with the Spartans.

Regarding significant numbers, Stew Morrill's team currently leads the WAC with a +11.4 scoring margin and are shooting 49% in conference play while holding collective opponents to 40%. Utah State also is tops in rebounding differential at +11.1. If it is any consolation, USU is last in the conference at 4.3 steals a game and just plus -1.71 in turnover margin.

SJSU and Utah State met December 31 in Logan -- it was 80-71 Aggies -- here's our game report from back then:

"A tug of war? Can that actually be used to describe a basketball game?

We're running with it, plus that point Brockeith Pane with 21 points hurt the Spartans (as he has done to each WAC opponent) all evening via dribble-drive penetration in a Utah State 80-71 victory.

A strong second half by frontcourter Tai Wesley -- because he wasn't burdened by foul trouble -- also aided the Aggie victory. He finished with 16 points, eight boards and just one second half foul. Tyler Newbold just missed a double-double with 11/9.

An under-the-weather Adrian Oliver totaled 18 points. Justin Graham added 15 and Brylle Kamen 13.

Utah State went up 56-50 with 11:03 left. Then Pooh Williams got called for an elbow, subsequently used a variation of the King's English in conversing with the referee and was slapped with a T. Two Oliver free throws and a Graham bucket brought the difference back to two.

The Aggies eventually stretched the lead to seven -- 61 to 54 -- with 8:45 remaining, then 63-54 until Graham nailed a jumper. Stew Morrill's squad then advanced it to 11. It was cut to nine a couple of times but San Jose State couldn't get closer.

Utah State remained relatively foul free in the second half and forced the Spartans into double figure whistles.

Rebounding was even at the half but the Aggies broke out to earn a 14 carom lead in that category come game's end.

Wil Carter fouled out with 8:20 remaining in the game, limited all night by foul difficulties.

It was a most surreal first half, highlighted by 28 foul calls, 15 on USU. For the Aggies, Wesley (both offensive, one an intentional elbow), Morgan Grim, Matt Formisano and Nate Bendall each were whistled for two fouls, with Brady Jardine totaling three.

Oliver had 10 points after the initial 20 minutes (on just six shots), Brylle Kamen nine and Calvin Douglas seven.

Pane owned the first half with 15 points, five boards and a trio of assists.

Utah State rolled out to a 7-0 lead but SJSU came back to tie it at nine apiece on a pair of Oliver free throws. It went back and forth until the Aggies led 39-38 when the clock expired."

As began our December 31 game preview, Utah State is Utah State, year-in and year-out -- Stew Morrill has his offensive system (screen, screen, screen and then screen) until an open shot is accessed or Tai Wesley can muscle inside. It's almost as if who issues the most bruises, wins. Defenders, wishing to escape another collision, start taking shortcuts but the Aggies pick up on this and take advantage when such an opportunity presents.

Defensively, the Aggies play just as physical and boast Pooh Williams, the returning WAC Defensive Player of the Year and Tyler Newbold who is another persistent defender.

It's a squad of talents who play to their strengths, understand their individual and team boundaries and minimize weaknesses.

The closest games this season have taken place when USU doesn't shoot well from outside. Lert's see what happens Thursday.

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.

In their last game, situated in Logan, Utah State downed New Mexico State. From USU athletics:

A 17-0 first-half run propelled Utah State to a 59-49 win over New Mexico State in a battle of the Aggies Saturday night...

...Senior forward Tai Wesley was the lone USU player in double-digits with 18 points....

...All nine USU players got in the scoring column, as senior guards Brian Green and Pooh Williams tallied nine and eight points, respectively. Senior forward Nate Bendall pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds while junior forward Brady Jardine snared 10, guiding the home Aggies to a 45-30 rebounding advantage, including 15 on the offensive glass which led to a 16-6 second-chance points edge.

NMSU was led by Troy Gillenwater's game-best 20 points while Hernst Laroche added 11 points...

The USU Starting Five

* Nate Bendall 6-foot-9 -- 6.7 ppg., shooting 47% overall, 6.9 rpg., he's coming off a foot injury and now playing about 30 minutes a game

* Tai Wesley 6-foot-7 -- 16.3 ppg., shooting 60% overall, 7.1 rpg., only foul trouble limits his productivity

* Pooh Williams 6-foot-4 -- 7.8 ppg., shooting 40% overall and 40% from three, half of his shot attempts have been treys

* Tyler Newbold 6-foot-5 -- 6.7 ppg., 6.7 rpg., shooting 45% overall, 42% from long distance and these are improved numbers from an earlier,slump

* Brockeith Pane 6-foot-1 & 195-- 12.7 ppg., shooting 54%, 23% from three, is best at driving and penetrating and very hard to stop due to his strength

Off The Bench

* Brady Jardine -- 7.0 ppg., shooting 59% from the floor (and in the paint), 7.1 rpg. leads the team

* Brian Green 6-foot-1 -- 8.7 ppg., shooting 43% overall, 40% on treys, 33 of his 53 shooting attempts have been treys

* Morgan Grim 6-foot-8 -- more inside muscle with limited athletic prowess

* E.J. Farris 6-foot-2 -- He is a walk-on as the backup point and the son of former Spartan Ward Farris, he from back in the Bill Berry-era teams

WAC Schedule to date

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

12/29/10 vs. Hawai'i W 74-66
12/31/10 vs. San Jose State W, 80-71
01/08/11 at Nevada W, 81-67
01/13/11 at Boise State W, 68-59
01/15/11 at Fresno State W, 52-39
01/20/11 vs. Louisiana Tech W, 74-57
01/22/11 vs. New Mexico State W, 59-49

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

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