Utah State basketball: Defense an emphasis for Aggies
Against Adams State, the Utah State men's basketball team would be happy to drop more than 100 points for their second straight exhibition.
But one thing must change: the Aggies' defense, or lack thereof.
Utah State's 108-88 win over Central Methodist last week showed a lot of encouraging signs, but the coaching staff couldn't abide the lackluster defensive effort. For Friday night the Aggies' final tune-up ahead of a season opener against USC they'll look for a rebound performance at what Stew Morrill has often called the most important end.
"We've certainly tried this week," assistant coach Chris Jones said. "Half of our practice has been dedicated to defense. They're all trying really hard to guard better. They're trying to be better."
Utah State is hopeful that a week of hard practice could cure what ails their questionable stopping ability. The NAIA Eagles shot nearly 62 percent from 3-point range, many of them right in the face of their defenders.
Getting shot on wasn't the only issue: The Aggies got whistled for a whopping 27 fouls. Jones said the calls were in part a reflection of new NCAA rules which penalize hand-checking. The team has spent a chunk of the preseason trying to adjust, working on moving their feet more and keeping their hands up.
"Everybody's got to work on it," Jones said. "We've tried to let them know. We've done drills. We've done drills. You never know how it will work until you get into real games."
The team has confidence in its starting lineup. Against CMU, Preston Medlin, Jarred Shaw and Spencer Butterfield combined for 57 points. Jones said he expects all three to start and play at least 30 minutes each during the season.
But that doesn't mean the offense doesn't need some tinkering as well.
Against Division II Adams State, the Aggies will aim to clean up their cuts, work through sets faster and make sure they're not getting whistled on screens a problem last week.
Utah State also continues to work with its newcomers. Kyle Davis was stricken with foul trouble last week, but Jalen Moore added 10 points and a fast-break spark. Jones said the coaching staff saw good things from freshmen Jojo McGlaston and Viko Noma'aea, but they're eager to see what the duo can do against a higher caliber of competition.
Adams State at Utah State
O At Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan
Friday, 7 p.m.