Utah State basketball stays wary hosting Seattle
Logan • Utah State will have a few advantages this weekend.
They've played Seattle and Idaho before. They're on a 10-game win streak. And they're returning to the comforts of the Spectrum after a successful Texas road trip.
"At least somebody has to get on a plane then come from Salt Lake to Logan," Stew Morrill said. "I hope they get good and tired on that day in between. You don't really wish other teams ill will, but you don't wish them any breaks either. That's just the nature of conference competition."
The Aggies, for now, at at the top of the heap with a 2-0 WAC slate so far. And the Redhawks and the Vandals, who played each other last week, will come in to test Utah State's well-known home advantage.
First up is Seattle, which has played heavyweights such as Virginia, Stanford and Washington - and lost to all of them. But the Redhawks have athleticism, as they showed last year when they undressed the Aggies in Seattle with pressure and hit hard on offensive rebounds.
Morrill's ready for anything.
"Last year they gave us fits in Seattle," he said. "They pressured us and caused all kinds of problems. That's an area we've been trying to get better at: Taking care of the basketball."
In both Texas games, Utah State gave up many first half turnovers before buckling up by the finish. The Aggies made sound adjustments against Texas State's press in particular, turning a single-digit lead into a blowout.
Utah State will be playing its seventh and eighth games in two-and-a-half weeks, it's third and fourth in only eight games. With limited depth, fatigue could be another creeping issue.
But Ben Clifford and his teammates dismissed the notion on Wednesday, after what he called a good practice.
"I don't think we're tired, we didn't seem tired today," he said. "We've had a couple people go down recently - it seems they're dropping like flies - but everyone who can play has played. ... I think the strength of our team so far is it seems like any guy on any night can go off."
Recently, the backcourt has been the backbone of the offense. Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield have averaged 38.5 points in the first two WAC games.
But Utah State will also have to rebound better than they have in the last stretch. A once 15-rebound advantage per game has dwindled down, and the Aggies are only 3.5 boards ahead in average in WAC play.
Seattle is the best-rebounding team in the league, averaging 42.2 per game, and the Redhawks won the battle of the boards in both games last season with Utah State.
"They exposed us a little bit with the rebounding last year," Morrill said. "We're a little better of a rebounding team than we were a year ago, though. Hopefully that will help us."
ESPN ranks Aggies the No. 10 mid-major team
On their basketball blog today, ESPN ranked Utah State No. 10 in their semi-regular mid-major power rankings.
Aggies fans might be interested to know that past opponents St. Mary's (No. 6) and Santa Clara (No. 15) are on the list, but no WAC teams are besides USU. The Aggies are also one place ahead of BYU, which should spice up the rivalry when it continues in February.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon