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Aggies hoops living on the edge with depth issues

Published February 19, 2013 10:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • It's been lurking beneath the surface of Utah State's last nine games. Finally it reared its ugly head on Tuesday at BYU.

Utah State has no depth.

It's an obvious thing to say, and it has obvious consequences for the flow of the game, fatigue and roles on the team. But Stew Morrill said earlier this year that it might come to pass, however unlikely, that the Aggies would have to finish a game with four players.

It nearly came to pass in a 70-68 loss to BYU. If the game had gone to overtime, Utah State would've had to play five minutes against a foul-happy officiating crew with Jarred Shaw on the bench and four of the seven remaining scholarship players with four fouls apiece.

It wasn't necessarily what lost the game, but planning for such an absurd scenario definitely was gnawing in the back of Stew Morrill's brain.

"We were in full scramble mode with our guys in foul trouble," he said. "I thought I might have to play our redshirt who hasn't checked in yet — I'm trying to save his redshirt year. I thought we might have to finish with a point guard. All kinds of things."

The officiating crew — Larry Spaulding, Eric Curry and Tom O'Neil — were calling the game so tightly in the second half, both of the teams ended up in the double bonus with 10 minutes to go.

It hurt the Aggies' tenacity. Every time BYU drove in on one of the teams guards, whether it was TeNale Roland, Spencer Butterfield, or Marcel Davis, all of them knew they couldn't get too far in anyone's face.

"We had to play smart, back off a little bit and not play as aggressive," Butterfield said. "I think it did affect the way we played. I know for me personally, I was trying not to pick up that fourth or fifth foul. I stepped off a little bit. I wish I didn't have to, but that was what the circumstances dictated."

It may be the only time this season Utah State faces that kind of foul trouble. Or maybe not.

Regardless, it's a concern the Aggies face that is very particular to them. Just about every team they'll play doesn't have to worry about finishing a game without a point guard. Or a shooting guard. Or a power forward. That's Utah State's world now.

Morrill may have weathered his toughest challenge without burning Connor Garner's redshirt or playing Matt Lopez extended time. But he and the Aggies coaching staff will always have to devote time to that possibility, and any way you look at it, that's a disadvantage.

— Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon