UW vs. Utah State hoops Q&A

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 Wednesday’s first-round game at the Mountain West Tournament with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at Noon MT at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Follow on Twitter:[email protected]

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

How would you describe the season for Utah State with a new head coach and a pretty experienced roster returning from last season?

It has been disappointing. There were high expectations with the preseason polls and the veterans coming back. Plus, the new coach had been part of the program for so long the transition was smooth. I really believe the Aggies never fully recovered from David Collette quitting the team two days before the first game. That was a huge blow.

What has been the biggest changes under first-year coach Tim Duryea, and how do you see the program moving forward under his leadership?

Duryea has allowed the athletes to create more on their own when they push the ball. The offense is not as structured as it was under Stew Morrill. Duryea also is much more calmer, but has shown some emotion the last month and the players have said they like seeing him get fired up. As far as moving forward, there are some highly regarded recruits that have verbally committed. If they can get them signed when the time comes around, that would be a big step forward.

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UW vs. Utah State men’s hoops Q&A

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.

Follow on Twitter:[email protected]

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

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

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.

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UW-Utah State men’s basketball: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s game against Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

1. Defend the perimeter: This was a big key in the Cowboys’ 76-53 win in Laramie last week as the Aggies were just 6 of 18 from 3-point range. Even then, they hit some key 3s — especially in the first half — to keep them in the game. Utah State will have three or four guys on the floor that can shoot it, so UW must be good defending along the perimeter from start to finish. When the Aggies get rolling from outside, they are hard to beat. Utah State shoots just over 39 percent from 3-point range.

David Collette

David Collette

2. Corral Collette: UW  also did a good job of defending Utah State redshirt freshman forward David Collette last week. They “blitzed him” more last week, meaning that once he got the ball, UW would send another defender at him to disrupt his timing. I would assume Utah State will adjust to that, but until it does that seems like a good strategy to defend Collette. It also wouldn’t hurt if Collette gets into early foul trouble like he did last week. Whatever UW does, it needs to make sure Collette doesn’t get going.

“That’s easier said than done because they have a lot of actions and keep a lot people busy. The reality is he’s a really good player. The better players play well consistently,” UW coach Larry Shyatt said.

Here is my video preview of the game:


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UW-Utah State men’s basketball Q&A

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.

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

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.

Follow on Twitter: @HJNews

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.

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Wyoming 76, Utah State 53: 3 takes, notes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 76-53 victory over Utah State Wednesday night.

1. That’s more like it: UW played better defense as the 53 points was the second-lowest point total its allowed in Mountain West play this season. Utah State shot a respectable 45.8 percent, but was just 6 of 18 from 3-point range. The Cowboys forced 11 turnovers and scored 15 points off those mistakes. The Cowboys also didn’t allow any second-chance points, and held a 30-21 rebounding edge. The Cowboys did a good job of going after Utah State redshirt freshman forward David Collette, who had 10 points in 5 of 6 shooting, but he wasn’t much of a factor in the game. The Cowboys never trailed in the game. This was the UW team many fans were used to seeing much of this season.

Larry Nance Jr.

Larry Nance Jr.

2. Nifty Nance: Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. had his seventh double-double of the season and 18th of his career with 21 points and 10 rebounds — both game highs. But what stood out about Nance’s game was his ability to hit short to mid-range jumpers. Seven of his nine baskets were jumpers, which Utah State was willing to give him. If Nance can continue to hit those shots, he becomes much more difficult to defend. Perhaps it was the emotion of senior night, but Nance looked more like the preseason player of the year in the MW in this game, and looked like he is on the tail end of recovering from mononucleosis — good news for the Cowboys as tournament time approaches.

Here are some second half highlights — along with some special events late and after the game — along with the post-game interview session with all five UW seniors:



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UW vs. Utah State men’s basketball: 3 keys, notes, quotes and video

My three keys for Wyoming’s regular-season home-finale against Utah State, which starts at 7 p.m. MT Wednesday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Riley Grabau

Riley Grabau

1. Perimeter defense: UW has lost four of its last six games, and in all of those losses they’ve allowed 10 3-pointers three times, and 11 in last Saturday’s loss at UNLV. Utah State shoots about 40 percent from behind the arc, and will have three or four guys on the floor most of the time that shoots between 40 and 50 percent. The Cowboys must do a better job defending the perimeter because if Utah State gets hot from long range, they will be in for a long night.

“Yeah, I think we’re a little out of rhythm. I think we getting back to where we were at the start of the year. We need to get tougher on the defensive end. Coach (Larry Shyatt) said we need to get tougher on the defensive end and I agree with him, we do.” — UW senior guard Riley Grabau

Here is my video preview of the game:


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UW-Utah State men’s basketball Q&A

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, on Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @HJNews

 

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

The Aggies are the hottest team in the Mountain West having won six straight. What has clicked over the last few weeks for them to play such good basketball?

I think it just took time for this young, inexperienced group to get used to one another. The win at New Mexico — even though the Lobos have been struggling — seemed to give the Aggies a big dose of confidence. Since then, they have just carried themselves differently and it shows on the court. Utah State has been shooting the ball a lot better and also getting help from the bench.

Sophomore wing Jalen Moore and redshirt freshman forward David Collette have garnered a lot of attention for Utah State — as they should. But who else has perhaps gone under the radar but been a big factor in the Aggies’ success this season?

Point guard Darius Perkins and true freshman Julion Pearre have had some big games scoring, but the most steady guy behind Moore and Collette is Chris Smith. The junior college transfer seems to hit big shots when the Aggies need one. Smith also does more than score. The guard is averaging 12.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game. In conference games, he is shooting 54 percent from the field and has made 51 percent of his 3-point shots.

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MW men’s basketball power rankings and picks

Here are my Mountain West men’s basketball power rankings for this week, along with predictions on this week’s games.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback/opinions.

1. San Diego State (20-6 overall, 10-3 MW): Back on top after two impressive home wins over Wyoming and Colorado State. The Aztecs also remain in first place in the conference and are the only undefeated team at home.

2. Boise State (18-7, 8-4): A loss at Fresno State last Saturday snapped the Broncos’ eight-game winning streak. Some injuries and suspensions forced it to be down some guys in Fresno. We will see how it bounces back at UNLV this week.

3. Wyoming (20-6, 9-4): Got a much-needed win at home over lowly San Jose State. The Cowboys need to get senior forward Larry Nance Jr. back healthy (mononucleosis) but it won’t be this week. Its lone game this week at Nevada won’t be easy.

4. Colorado State (21-5, 8-5): Still right up near the top, but the Rams will be tested this week with games at Fresno State and home against a suddenly improved Air Force team.

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UW-Utah State men’s hoops: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 56-44 loss at Utah State Tuesday night.

1. It was bound to happen sometime: Meaning a team was going to take away UW senior forward Larry Nance Jr. inside and make the Cowboys win by shooting from the outside. Even though Nance had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, he was 7 of 15 from the field and six of his shots were outside of the paint. Utah State’s zone defense, with is long and athletic players, wreaked havoc. UW had 14 turnovers, including a season-high by junior guard Josh Adams. The Cowboys shot just 36 percent and was 30.4 from 3-point range. They also got to the free-throw line only three times.

Here is Nance after the game:


2. Turnover trouble: UW came into the game averaging 12.6 turnovers in league play, and the 14 turnovers in this game marked the fifth straight game where its had 13 or more. Utah State scored 14 points off UW’s turnovers in this game. That must improve moving forward. Discouraging from this game was Adams and Grabau combined for 10 turnovers. Said Grabau: “We’ve got to clean that up, and I have to do a better job as the point guard leading the team. I put that stuff on me. I need to put the guys where they need to be and take care of the ball.”

Here is coach Larry Shyatt after the game:


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