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 67, Utah State 65: 3 takes, notes, quotes and video

My three takes from Wyoming’s 67-65 win over Utah State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

Charles Hankerson Jr.

1. Charles in charge: Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. silenced a lot of his critics with a career-high 16 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Hankerson also had five rebounds. Yes, he missed two free throws late that would have sealed the game in the final seconds, but his shooting and slashing to the basket were two of the biggest factors in UW’s win. At the time, no one other than junior guard Josh Adams was consistently scoring, and Hankerson’s offense not only gave UW a boost, but sparked other guys like senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and senior guard Riley Grabau — who all scored in double figures.

Josh Adams

Josh Adams

2. Adams’ A-game: A game-high 19 points to go along with six assists and only two turnovers. In his last two games against Utah State, Adams has 37 points, 14 assists and two turnovers. He was aggressive with the ball, had some spectacular plays around the basket, including a follow-up dunk in the second half that had him trending nationally on Twitter for a while, and also part of ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Plays. When Adams plays like that, UW is more than formidable. He will be tested in Friday night’s semifinals as he likely will be guarding Boise State senior guard Derrick Marks, the Mountain West Player of the Year.

Here is coach Larry Shyatt, Adams, Nance and Hankerson after 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-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 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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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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UW-Utah State postgame thoughts

It’s a pattern that is becoming all too familiar for the Wyoming men’s basketball team.

A decent to good first half and a not-so-good second half.

The Cowboys lost their fourth consecutive game with a 65-54 loss at Utah State Wednesday night. They led 29-26 at halftime and led by as many as eight early in the second half.

But then UW couldn’t make shots and couldn’t control the glass.

Utah State outscored UW 39-25 in the second half, and outrebounded UW 47-27 for the game.

That pretty much summed this game up. Utah State coach Stew Morrill said Utah State switched its defenses up more in the second half, but it looked to me its zone defense frustrated UW the most.

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Morrill talks about playing Wyoming

Here are some quotes from Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill about today’s game at Wyoming:

On another big test for team and previewing the Wyoming game:
“The biggest challenge is to stay positive, keep working hard and try to figure out what you can do to win some close games. When you start getting discouraged and getting your dauber down, it compounds your problems. For the most part I don’t think we’re doing that. We had a good workout today. We’ve had a tough stretch, there’s no question about it. Our guys know that. We’ve got another tough opponent at Wyoming. I’ve been there enough times to know how hard it is to win there. We have to go in there and compete and give it the same effort as we have a couple times on the road and we’ll be in the game and have a chance. Hopefully we can do that.”

Cox interested in UW job

Been making a lot of phone calls and sending a lot of e-mails to gather information about the search for a new men’s basketball coach at Wyoming.

It’s early in the process so I better pace myself.

South Florida assistant coach Jeremy Cox told the St. Petersburg Times “there’s no question” he would be interested in the UW job. Cox was a graduate assistant at UW in 1991-92, and his wife went to school at UW. Cox also has and has been an assistant for another well-talked about candidate for the UW job — Billy Gillispie — at Kentucky and Texas A&M.

“I’m from the Rocky Mountains, my wife graduated from Wyoming, I can tell you probably everything there is to know about the history of Wyoming basketball,” Cox told the paper. “It’s a special place for me and my family. But at the same time, I hope whoever is there gets that thing really rolling like I remember it happening.”

Former UW player, Pinedale native and former College of Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar reportedly isn’t interested in the job.

A source told me yesterday me former Laramie County Community College basketball coach Rodell Davis, who is an assistant at Providence, also is interested.

I’m sure there are a lot of coaches “interested” in the job. Wonder how many will get a serious look.

A darkhorse candidate I have: Stew Morrill of Utah State.

Morrill has things rolling at Utah State and is 316-101 in his 13 seasons, including 11 straight 23-win seasons and 11 straight NCAA or NIT tournaments appearances. But the WAC is falling apart. It will add some schools to keep it alive, but it took a big hit with the losses of Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State. Morrill was 121-86 in seven seasons at Colorado State but finished no higher than fourth in the WAC. Still, is 534-239 in 25 seasons as a college head coach at Montana, CSU and Utah State. Utah State will remain the WAC’s kingpin, but what kind of future does it hold?

The Mountain West is a better league and UW would pay Morrill at or a little higher than what he makes at Utah State. However, Morrill is 59 and getting close to retiring. Would he want to spend his final years rebuilding a program or cruising to what looks to be lots of easy victories in the new-look WAC?

Thoughts on that?

See my column in Thursday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle www.wyomingnews.com and Laramie Boomerang www.laramieboomerang.com for more on UW’s search for a new men’s basketball coach.