WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Shawn Harrison, who covers Utah State men’s basketball for the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, about Thursday’s game with the University of Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
UW (22-9) is the fourth seed and Utah State (18-12) is the fifth seed. Both finished with 11-7 records in the Mountain West. Tipoff is at 3:30 p.m. MT at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network.
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Were you surprised with the outcome of the game last week where Wyoming won 76-53 in Laramie, and if so, what surprised you the most?
I was not surprised Wyoming won, even though I thought going in Utah State had a chance. However, I was surprised with how bad the Aggies played. A lot had to do with how well the Cowboys started each half. Utah State had won six in a row and seemed to be clicking, but came out flat in Laramie. It was arguably the worst game — at San Diego State also was not pretty — the Aggies have played in MW action. The biggest surprise was how poorly Utah State played on defense. The Aggies were soft. Defense has been something this team has been consistent with all year.
What kind of game do you expect Thursday, one similar to the one in Logan where Utah State won 56-44 or the game last week in Laramie?
I think it will be a combination. I can’t imagine it being as low-scoring as the one in Logan. I think it will be in the 60s and competitive. I really don’t think one team will win by double digits, and I expect it to come down to the final minutes. Whoever executes the best down the stretch will win.
What kind of advantage or disadvantage do these teams have facing each other for the second time in about a week — or is it a wash?
I don’t know if there is an advantage or disadvantage. I know the Aggies are really upset with the way they played last Wednesday. They keep saying that they must redeem themselves and are glad to play the Cowboys again. I would think Wyoming has to be confident, having won so easily. But I will borrow a comment from Utah State coach Stew Morrill, nothing in the past really matters this week. It all comes down to the team that gets hot for the next three or four days. The Cowboys and Aggies are both capable of making a run.
What do you see as the keys to this game, and who wins?
The Aggies must keep Josh Adams in check. I felt he carved up Utah State after a very poor performance in Logan. The Aggies must also be more physical on defense and not allow some of the highlight-type dunks that took place in Laramie, which seemed to bolster the Cowboys. Probably the biggest key for Utah State is keeping David Collette on the court. The Aggie big man has dealt with foul trouble all year. Utah State needs him to play 30 minutes and help neutralize Larry Nance Jr. I think the Aggies will bounce back and edge the Cowboys.
How do you size up the field in the quarterfinals? Who has the best chance to win the tournament, and do you have any surprise teams to watch for?
I really think the top seeds will win in the quarterfinals, as far as Boise State, San Diego State and Colorado State. The Utah State-Wyoming game could go either way. I went with Utah State above, so I will stick with that. I think Boise State is the team to beat, but also feel the Utah State-Wyoming winner could become a surprise team to make the championship game. The Aggies and Cowboys have both beat the Broncos and could do it again. UNLV could also make a run. Playing at home is always worth noting.
Cowboys game day
Game: (4) Wyoming (22-9) vs. (5) Utah State (18-12); quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament
When: 3:30 p.m. MT Thursday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie