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: @hjsports

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: @hjsports

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 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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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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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 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?

Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison

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.

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