Aggies' battle in the paint will be big factor against BYU
Talk about a big man battle. Saturday night could be one of the better tests for Utah State's front court.
Many eyes will be peeled for the Cougars' Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino, who account for nearly half of BYU's points. Similarly, Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield will need to have good games to propel the Aggies to their sixth straight win.
But inside may be the most defining battle. Jarred Shaw, Jordan Stone and Kyle Davis (among others) will have their hands full to beat out Eric Mika and Nate Austin for points and rebounds.
"Nate Austin is such an aggressive, good rebounder on the offensive end and Mika is probably one of the better freshmen in the country," Morrill said.
The question isn't as much on offense. Against Weber State, Shaw and Davis had two of their most productive games. Opponents are averaging nearly 80 points per game against BYU.
But the bigger concern the Aggies face is rebounding and depth. BYU's high-flying style creates lots of opportunities for rebounds, and the Cougars average 43.9.
The Aggies have been very good defensive rebounders this year, grabbing the board on defense 86.1 percent of the time, according to KenPom.com. But Shaw has been inconsistent, grabbing four rebounds in the last game, and Davis could use another game to prove that his double-double from last game can be a repeat performance.
Fouling will be another key. Against the Wildcats, Shaw had two fouls and Stone had three with 8 minutes left in the first half. The Aggies were forced to tread lightly in foul trouble, running out a lineup with Davis, Danny Berger and Ben Clifford in the front court. Only when Shaw returned in the second half did double teams on Utah State's center open up Davis for scoring.
It could go the other way, as well. Mika has struggled with fouls so far on the young season, and Austin was ejected last game for a flagrant. If those two have to head to the bench, the size gets a little thin for BYU.
Utah State was characteristically tight-lipped about its plans and strategies on Friday. But the paint battle surely is a prominent feature of whatever designs the Aggies have on beating BYU.
"Our goal is to play good defense," Stone said. "We know they like to run, and we'll have to do some things to adjust to that."
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon