Saturday night is not just a game — it’s a chance to get familiar. UT Arlington and Utah State are all but assured to see more of each other.
The Aggies and Mavericks will likely finish, in one order or another, with the fourth and fifth seeds in the Western Athletic Conference. That means they’ll get to play each other in the first round of the tournament on March 13 in Las Vegas.
Consider this matchup a warm-up round, but an important one nonetheless.
“It doesn’t change anything,” junior guard Marvin Jean said. “These guys are the same kind of tempo [as Louisiana Tech]. We have to take care of the ball and play defense, especially play defense.”
Utah State has a lot catching up to do.
The Aggies lost the first matchup with UT Arlington in Logan, a demoralizing 74-68 loss right on the heels of the road trip during which the team lost Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed. It was an intense, physical game, one in which Utah State gave the Mavericks a ton of chances from the free-throw line.
Utah State could be very much in the same shoes in this matchup, this one on the road. Spencer Butterfield went down in the final minutes against Louisiana Tech, further aggravating an injured hip. After a visit to a hospital in Ruston, he rejoined the team, but it’s unclear if he’ll be available for the game, much less the rest of the season.
If he’s out, replacing his production will be a concern against another one of the toughest pressure defenses in the conference. The Aggies struggled against Louisiana Tech’s pressure on Thursday in a 84-61 loss.
“When you play Arlington, they don’t switch as much, but they press you and pressure you on the half court,” Morrill said. “Both teams really try to get you to turn the ball over, which at times, has been a little bit of an issue for us.”
Men’s basketball Utah State atUT Arlington
O At Arlington, Texas
Tipoff • 6 p.m.
Radio • 97.5 FM
Records • USU 19-8, 9-6; UT Arlington 16-10, 10-5
Series history • Tied, 1-1
Last meeting • UTA 74, USU 68 (Jan. 24)
About the Aggies • Jarred Shaw has scored double digits in eight straight games.
About the Mavericks • UTA broke out of a fourth-place tie with Utah State on Thursday.