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
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.
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 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. Wyoming (17-3 overall, 6-1 MW): The Cowboys haven’t always been the most impressive looking team, but they are in first place and enter the week 3-0 in road conference games. The toughness — mentally and physically — of this team is impressive. As former Oakland Raiders coach and owner Al Davis used to say: “Just win, baby.”
2. Colorado State (18-2, 5-2): The Rams were great in a 79-73 home win over San Diego State, and have won four in a row since a 60-54 home loss to Wyoming on Jan. 7. A road game Tuesday at Boise State will be interesting.
3. San Diego State (15-5, 5-2): Nearly completed the comeback at Colorado State, and still by far the best defensive team in the conference. Key will be if this team can shoot the ball. If it is just average, it will win most — if not all — of its remaining games.
4. Boise State (14-6, 4-3): Winners of four straight and figuring out how to win close games. Tough to say this team is better without leading scorer Anthony Drmic — out with a season-ending ankle injury. But the Broncos are playing good basketball, and senior guard Derrick Marks is making a case as the league’s player of the year. He leads the MW in scoring (19.2 ppg).
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Shawn Harrison, who covers Utah State men’s basketball for the Logan Herald Journal, for Tuesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah.
Follow on Twitter: @hjsports
With no returning starters and not a lot of proven experience returning from last season, Utah State has proven to be one of the more solid teams in the Mountain West this season. Have you been surprised by the Aggies’ play to this point?
The start of the season certainly was a surprise. To not only start 3-0, but be down by double digits in each of those games and then win shocked me. Veteran Aggie teams have not done that. So, I think the way this team started made me think they could come together and play as a team sooner than most thought. When Mountain West play rolled around, the win at Boise State was big. Utah State has been in every game and could just as easy be 7-0. Realistically, youthful mistakes cost them against New Mexico and UNLV.
Who has really stepped up for Utah State so far this season?
Forward Jalen Moore had a lot of pressure put on him as he was the most experienced player returning. The sophomore, who did not redshirt, not only leads the team in scoring (15.8 points per game) and rebounding (7.3 per game), but is well spoken and does not shy away from being a vocal leader. He has been the most consistent every night out.