Reno, Nev. • The lackluster feel to Utah State’s game Saturday night didn’t start after the whistle, coach Stew Morrill said.
He pointed to a lack of intensity and energy going back to the shootaround before the game, the second road loss to start the program’s first season in the Mountain West. It dragged into the team’s game, a forgettable 62-54 loss to Nevada in which the Aggies (11-4, 1-2) didn’t get in position to take the lead at all in the second half.
“We don’t have enough competitiveness, enough fire from within,” Morrill said. “Again, that’s my fault. That’s my job.”
It hasn’t been easy for the Aggies to explain, but a troubling trend has emerged this season: Utah State hasn’t played well away from the Spectrum.
In four road games and a neutral-site game, Utah State has shot only 43.6 percent from the floor, a significant dip from its 48 percent clip for the season. Although the Aggies are shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc for the season, that average drops to 34.4 percent away from the Spectrum.
Defense also suffers: On average, opponents shoot under 42 percent against Utah State, but the average has risen to 47.3 percent in away and neutral-court games. Almost all of that extra advantage comes inside the arc, indicating Utah State’s hosts typically have an easier time getting closer to the basket.
But the number that matters most: Utah State has lost its last three games away from home.
On Saturday night, the Aggies didn’t appear closer to many answers. While they had a better outing defensively, the offense took a steep slide.
“Our defensive numbers were good enough to have a chance,” Morrill said, referencing Utah State’s effort particularly against Deonte Burton. “The thorn in our side has been the defensive side of the ball, but tonight we were just atrocious offensively.”
It’s up for debate exactly why that is. The Lawlor Events Center wasn’t extraordinarily packed. Though somewhat fatigued, the Aggies still were able to rebound and adequately defend in the second half.
The only thing the Aggies know for sure is that the pattern cannot continue — not if they hope to be a factor in the Mountain West this year.
Already clumped with four 1-2 teams in the bottom half of the standings, Utah State’s biggest conference challenges lie ahead. With Colorado State, Boise State, UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico in quick succession, the pressure will be on to start finding answers.
Especially when the Aggies have to leave home.
“In this league, you don’t have an easy night ever,” sophomore Kyle Davis said. “I think that’s what we’re learning — the hard way, unfortunately.”
Colorado State at Utah State
P Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Utah State’s road woes
The Aggies are 9-1 at the Spectrum but only 2-3 in road and neutral-court games. Several statistics show how USU’s performance slides away from home:
Statistic Season avg. Road avg.
FG% 48.0 43.6
3FG% 41.1 34.4
Opp FG% 41.8 47.3