Yes, San Jose State University faces Utah State at 6 p.m. on Friday
It's an overly simplistic presentation but as Tai Wesley goes, so goes the Aggies. In the only non-conference games that Utah State has lost, Tai Wesley went 1-6 from the foul line in the 78-72 road loss to BYU (plus center 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. Within the WAC, Idaho took down USU on February 9 with Wesley totaling 11 points, 10 boards and six turnovers in 29 minutes. But what can't be dismissed is that seniors Brian Green (0-6), Tyler Newbold (2-9) and Pooh Williams (3-10) were muy, muy frio that evening.
Another item to factor into the game equation is the coaches in the league recently selecting Wesley as the WAC Most Valuable Player. Even though the voting is in the past tense, Adrian Oliver will certainly 'advocate' for his case in this matchup. It's not head-to-head per se but team leader versus team linchpin.
Our expectation is that Wesley will get his usual points on Friday but hopefully he'll shoot no better than 50%. Limiting Bendall who is a clever inside scorer (with the major focus on his teammate) and can pop the faceup jumper from the foul line will be a key. That and making sure none of the jumpshooters -- Green (a Second Team All-WACer), Williams and Newbold -- enter into a zone where the ball leaves their respective hands and nestles into the net much more often than not. Besides Wesley, the other primary creator is junior point Brockeith Pane, a First Team All-WAC selection and also an All - Newcomer honoree. Pane is erratic from outside but superb at dribble-drive penetration. It's impossible to keep him out of the key so the mission is to reduce his successful forays.
Williams and Newbold are the top defenders. The latter made the All - Defensive Team and a case could easily be made for Williams' inclusion in that group.
Here are our game reports from the earlier meetings between these two teams:
Utah State wins 80-71
December 31, 2010 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 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.
Spartans fall 84-65
January 27, 2011 Even minus Justin Graham (Achilles strain during warmups) and Brylle Kamen (suspended indefinitely due to conduct detrimental to the team), the fight was present all game. But Utah State was just too much and triumphed 84-65.
The vaunted Utah State inside game surprisingly wasn't much of a factor tonight, especially Nate Bendall who went scoreless. Even Brockeith Pane and his dribble-drive prowess was rarely a factor. But 6-foot-0 (in the eyes of his mother) Brian Green, stocky frame and all, was en fuego and damn near perfect all night.
Early in the second half, Utah State pulled away 41-29 but San Jose State closed it to 41-33 and with 15:41 remaining, it was 45-35.
The Aggies went up 14 at 51-37 on a Green trey with 12:56 on the clock. Then 56-39. With the score 59-42, the Utah State bench had totaled 34 of the team's 58 points.
An Oliver and1 three-point play with 7:33 showing cut the deficit to 11 at 64-53.
At the five minute mark, two Green free throws made it 72-58. It was 76-60 with three minutes remaining and effectively over.
Adrian Oliver paced SJSU with 29 points (10-23 shooting). Keith Shamburger scored 13 and Calvin Douglas added 10.
Green was 5-5 from long distance, sank his initial eight shots and totaled 25 points (a career high). Pooh Williams had 15 and Brockeith Pane 14. Tai Wesley's contribution: nine points and six boards.
At the half, it was 37-27 in favor of the Aggies. It went back and forth with both teams taking leads until a late Aggie spurt boosted the margin to 10.
The USU Starting Five
* Nate Bendall 6-foot-9 -- 6.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a game, shooting 46%
* Tai Wesley 6-foot-7 -- 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, 56% shooter
* Pooh Williams 6-foot-4 -- 8.2 points a game
* Tyler Newbold 6-foot-5 -- 8.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, shooting 44% and 40% with 65 of 98 shots being trey attempts
* Brockeith Pane 6-foot-1 -- 12.5 points a game, 50% shooter, 13% from long distance, 71 assists-to-46 turnovers
Williams owns a 40-19 and Newbold a 45/16 assist-to-turnover ratio but aren't creators.
Off The Bench
* Brady Jardine -- the best jumper in the WAC but very limited scoring range, shooting 52%, 6.8 rebounds per game
* Brian Green 6-foot-1 -- 9.9 points a game, shooting 47% and 42%, 66 of 114 shots being three-pointers
* Morgan Grim 6-foot-8 -- inside muscle
* James Walker 6-foot-2/E.J.Farris 6-foot-2 -- Typically one or the other comes in as Pane's backup but both play little
What is fascinating but may or may not be a key to the game is the differences in how Utah State performs in each 20 minutes. The Aggies have scored 547 points while giving up 398 in the first halves of conference games but it's a much closer 576 to 506 in second halves.
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)