Utah State basketball: Aggies starting to find their maturity
Seattle • The disparity was wide enough to consider if it was a different player who had snuck on the road trip.
TeNale Roland against Seattle didn't look like the TeNale Roland who couldn't find the soft spot of the hoop against UT Arlington. Only nine days ago, he had been 0 for 6. On Saturday, he was 5 for 9.
The difference? Cutting in for layups, confidently stroking from downtown pretty much everything.
"We worked hard for [this win]," said Roland, coming off his season-best 12-point performance. "Nobody's going to give it to us. We gotta come out and battle each and every night."
It's been a maturity process everyone on the Aggies team has been forced to go through, some more gradually than others.
The first signs of it showed with Spencer Butterfield. Then Jarred Shaw had a big game against Louisiana Tech. And now? It seems like almost everyone is getting there.
Stew Morrill spoke glowingly of the defense, of the roles his younger players and reserves have stepped into. They get it, he said.
"They know there's no one else," he said. "If we're gonna have a chance to win, we need those guys to step up."
Perhaps the biggest difference, the Aggies say, has been a consistent effort. There aren't many physically sound explanations as to why a 6-foot-2 player such as Butterfield can pull his fourth straight double-double against a team that averages more than 40 boards a game.
But there is this: Late in the game, Butterfield knew he was zeroing in on double-digit rebounds. He could feel another double-double coming on. But assistant Chris Jones told him he was still short one.
"I was fighting for that last one," Butterfield said. "Finally I came back to the bench, he told me I had 10. I was like, 'OK, OK.' "
Is that attitude contagious? Two Aggie wins and counting is the evidence in favor.