Utah State basketball: Aggies pinning hopes on big-man matchup
All eyes to the centers on Tuesday night.
The later-than-planned renewal of Utah State's rivalry with BYU brings an intriguing frontcourt matchup between Jarred Shaw and the Cougars' Brandon Davies. The way those two play in the paint could have a huge effect on whether the Aggies can leave Marriott Center with a win.
Both players are coming off very good nights. Shaw dropped 24 points on New Mexico State while going against 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar for a good portion of the game. Davies had 23 points and 5 assists in BYU's blowout of Portland State last week.
On the eve of one of Utah State's biggest nonconference games this year, Shaw said he was feeling ready for the challenge of 6-foot-9 Davies.
"I'll be ready to go tomorrow," he said. "The last game gave me a lot of confidence. I think we're all staying positive and feeling good about it."
Shaw has had reason to feel good recently: He's averaging nearly 20 points per game in the last six contests, stepping up in the wake of devastating injuries to the program. His shooting has improved as he's played through more contact and driven harder inside for high-percentage points rather than the jumpers he ran hot-and-cold with early this season.
However, Davies might be the best post player Utah State faces this year. He's averaging a steady 18 points per game for the season, dipping into single digits only once. He's more mobile than the slow-footed Bhullar, and will likely defend Shaw better at the midrange level.
In many ways, Davies is the consistent post player that Utah State coaches have asked Shaw to be this season. And coach Stew Morrill complemented not just Davies' scoring prowess, but also his
"Obviously, Davies has always been really good and gives them that five man with a post-up threat," he said. "The thing about Davies that makes him so good is not just his ability to score but his ability pass the ball. He is really a very, very good passer."
It's not quite the most jam-packed scheduling Utah State has faced this year, but the Aggies' date at BYU will be its third game in only six days.
Last week, the Aggies had to deal with Denver and New Mexico State, two of the WAC's top teams, in the same weekend. On only two days' rest, they march into the Marriott Center. It's stranger still, Morrill said, that both games this week are non-conference, owing to the schedule change brought on by Danny Berger's sudden collapse in December.
Last time Utah State faced a short week playing Monday, Thursday and Saturday they beat Texas State, Seattle and Idaho in a row.
BYU is a tougher opponent than any of those programs, so Utah State is trying to stay fresh for the long haul.
"We're doing what we need to do," Shaw said. "We made a few adjustments, and we'll be ready to go there."