Logan • Lately, the “Winning team, losing team,” cheer has been slower to come out. Utah State hasn’t been exactly running away with its last two wins.
Against New Mexico State and Illinois State, victory took a bit longer to grasp when the Aggies faced the full-court press. It led to a few turnovers and a few timeouts. Struggles against the press made wins that much tougher to achieve.
Now, Utah State heads to Ruston, La., where a nationally ranked team that thrives on the press awaits. No. 25-ranked Louisiana Tech bit them the first time in Logan, and the Aggies need to show improvement.
“We have to handle the press better than we did at the end of the game the other night,” coach Stew Morrill said. “We were a little bit shaky. You can’t be timid or tentative. You have to attack the thing, use your dribble.”
It’s easier said than done, of course. The Bulldogs force a turnover nearly one in every four opponent possessions. They’re ranked No. 5 in the country in turnover margin, giving up 5.3 fewer than they get on average.
Louisiana Tech tries to disguise coverage at times, switching between zone and man presses. The Aggies went down double-digits in the first match-up because they struggled against some of those looks.
“We’ve just been going through all of our options,” Marcel Davis said. “You just have to learn how to read it. That’s what we’ve been bringing up.”
Utah State has seen pressure defense often this year, and they’ll even see it this week with UT-Arlington coming up. Morrill said they’ll put Davis and TeNale Roland on the floor together in some key situations, but added that the entire team can work a little hard on breaking down the press.
No update yet on Preston Medlin
The team has been holding on to the tenuous hope that junior guard Preston Medlin can return after a wrist fracture that has so far sidelined him for about five weeks. Morrill declined to give an indication whether Medlin will be back in two weeks for the WAC tournament in Las Vegas.
Morrill did offer that Medlin did not require a screw in the bone to heal, but added that the fracture is slow-healing. He’ll leave it up to the medical staff to worry about it, he said.
“The last thing I’m trying to do is our medical people’s job,” he said. “They keep me posted, I listen. I sometimes don’t like what I hear. [Assistant trainer] Mike Williams has gotten very used to me not liking what I hear, but what can you do about it?”
Morrill went on to say he was happy for Williams, who was recognized by the legislature on Monday for saving Danny Berger’s life.
Louisiana Tech’s defense by the numbers
• Has a plus-5.3 average turnover margin (No. 5 in NCAA)
• Holds opponents to 28.3 percent 3-point shooting (No. 6 in the NCAA)
• Holds opponents to 39.4 percent shooting (No. 41 in NCAA)