Is UT Arlington a must-win opponent for the Aggies?
How badly do the Aggies need to beat UT Arlington tonight?
The question smacks of urgency that might not seem apparent. But look at Utah State's upcoming schedule after this game: Louisiana Tech at home, then Seattle, Idaho and San Jose State on the road. The Bulldogs are the only team the Aggies have not yet beaten, but the Redhawks, Vandals and Spartans will be itching to dish out revenge when Utah State visits them.
So the games ahead are tough, basically. If the remaining team sans Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed are going to win games, Thursday night at home is the next best chance they're going to get. Momentum from a victory can carry them forward.
At face value, UT Arlington is definitely beatable. The Mavericks are 8-8, have a losing record in conference, and are coming to the Spectrum where teams usually go home empty-handed. They lost big to Seattle and Idaho at home, and they don't have an elite scorer.
So far this year, UT Arlington has made games ugly and low-scoring - the kind of game Utah State can win with its own diminished firepower. A lot of it comes down to making high-efficiency shots and not turning the ball over. Against Denver, the Aggies turned the ball over a lot, and that was the major difference.
The Mavericks are 0-3 when being outrebounded, but they don't get outrebounded often. Utah State's big men, led by Jarred Shaw, can do the team a favor and hit the boards hard. UT Arlington doesn't shoot at a high percentage, so they'll have plenty of chances to win that battle.
The team has said that practices have been good since receiving the somber news that Medlin and Reed are now all but out for the year. Now is the night to prove that the Aggies have that motivation and fire, that they've worked hard on their flaws since last week.
Thursday is the night, because the next few contests won't get any easier.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon