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Utah State basketball: Many unfamiliar squads ahead in WAC play

Published December 25, 2012 5:37 pm

USU basketball notes • Aggies' next opponents have worst records in the WAC.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Stew Morrill is used to knowing what lies ahead in conference play. Fifteen years at Utah State will give a coach a feel for how a league could shake out.

And yet, with Western Athletic Conference play starting Saturday for the Aggies (9-1), the team's upcoming opponents are altogether unfamiliar. When the team heads to Texas for matches against UT-San Antonio and Texas State, there won't be any guiding sense of intuition.

"Ready or not," Morrill said after Utah State won the World Vision Challenge on Saturday night. "It's hard to say because we go on the road the first two games, and I've never seen either of those teams. Two teams in our league, and I've never played them — not that I can remember."

With the number of games Morrill has coached at Utah State, that's an increasingly rare occurrence.

Utah State has played only two road games thus far, but the Aggies can take some consolation: Their first two games come against the two WAC programs with the worst records. The Roadrunners and the Bobcats have combined for only eight victories.

UT-San Antonio has played all but one of its games on the road, listing Holy Cross and Old Dominion among its victories. The team might be tougher than Texas State, which has beaten weak opponents such as Fordham and UT-Tyler.

But Morrill is not about to let his Aggies go less than full throttle into conference play. He still sees plenty to clean up.

"There's some good teams, I know that much," he said. "We got to get a little more tough. We're a little fragile at times. We've got to stay solid and fight through some things because we're going to have that on the road."

Aggies' stats stay near the top

With three wins in the last week, Utah State stayed near the top of several statistical categories.

The Aggies were outrebounded for the first time against Southern Illinois but still are at No. 5 nationally in rebounding margin. Averaging 11.5 boards more than their opponents, Utah State is dramatically improved in that category this year.

The team also is No. 11 in shooting percentage (50.1 percent), No. 16 in assists per game (17.0) and No. 30 in 3-point percentage (38.6 percent). The Aggies are leading the WAC in all of those categories.

In the WAC, Preston Medlin, Jarred Shaw and Kyisean Reed are all top-15 scorers.