Here is my question-and-answer session with Shawn Harrison, who covers Utah State men’s basketball for The Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, about Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip off is at 4 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
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The Aggies were picked to finish third in the Mountain West this season, but are 11-10 overall and 3-7 in league play. What has happened with this team?
Well, I skipped ahead and could say look at question two. That is certainly part of the problem, but not being able to finish games has been a big problem. Throw out the New
Mexico game, and Utah State has held second half leads in most of its MW losses. The Aggies lost by three to San Diego State at home and then lose by three at Boise State after leading nearly the entire game. Scoring droughts have haunted them in every loss. Rebounding has been sketchy at times, and the lack of defending has been a problem. Head coach Tim Duryea has said this team lacks toughness once MW play began.
How has the loss of sophomore post David Collette prior to the start of the season affected this team — even now?
It certainly caused problems in the early going and is still an issue. Utah State planned on going to the big man a lot on the offensive end, and Collette certainly had presence on the defensive end with his ability to block shots and rebound. It put the team in a scramble mode the first month as the Aggies tried to change their approach with no consistent scoring threat at the post. There were a lot of games in a short span of time, and with Collette leaving two days before the opener, it didn’t give the team much time to adjust the game plan. The only true post man left is Elston Jones, who plays well at times, but is no David Collette. Utah State had gone small at times with Grayson Moore playing the five and had some success with the energy he brought to the court. However, Moore fractured a bone in his foot four games ago and is most likely done for the season. The Aggies are still trying to figure out how to get by with one true post and several undersized guys asked to fill in at times. Plus, it is an easy excuse to fall back on when things aren’t going well.
What is different with how this team plays and the overall feel of the program with first-year head coach Tim Duryea compared to veteran Stew Morrill?
This team plays a lot more loose. There were times when it seemed athletes were too worried about messing up under Morrill. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Duryea. Fans have voiced opinions in support and against the change. As far as how this team plays, there are many similarities as Duryea was with Morrill for 14 years, however, the cards with plays on offense are gone. Duryea has allowed his athletes to push the ball and freelance more. Scheduling Duke was something new. Plus, the Aggies have several verbal commitments from highly ranked high school athletes, which could be big if they can actually sign them. Currently there are no blue-collar type athletes that Morrill was known for.
Do you think the Aggies can turns things around in these final conference games, and if so, what needs to happen?
After watching them play like they did at Boise State on Tuesday, there is hope. They must remember how they played the first 35 minutes against the Broncos and put a complete game together. It comes down to being tougher in the rebounding department, taking better care of the ball, being aggressive on offense and defending a little better.
How do you see Saturday’s game at Wyoming unfolding? What match-ups or trends will you be following and who wins?
Of the three conference wins, the Aggies have picked up two of those on the road. Once again, throw out the New Mexico game and they have played tough away from the Spectrum. It will be interesting to see how well they defend Josh Adams, who has had big games against Utah State in the past. The Aggies have been really hot from 3-point range, which they have needed with very little production in the paint. It should be a close game, and if the Aggies have learned from their last outing, they finish strong for a 72-67 win.
Cowboys game day
Game: Utah State (11-10 overall, 3-7 Mountain West) at Wyoming (11-13, 4-7)
When: 4 p.m. today
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (96.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com