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Utah State basketball: Aggies looking to regain confidence

Published February 4, 2014 8:57 pm

College basketball • Utah State has lost five straight games.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • On Saturday, Stew Morrill said his team had lost its confidence.

On Tuesday, the Utah State coach suggested there's only one way for the Aggies to regain that swagger: win.

"I can tell them the things I believe about guys being good players and remind them of the good games they've had, but I don't have a big syringe that I can inject confidence," Morrill said. "The best way they can do it is to go win a game. You need a little confidence to get that done, but if we can, that will help everybody."

Utah State (12-9, 2-7) hasn't been able to win lately, and it's not for lack of wanting to win.

Frustration has been bubbling in Logan, as Utah State has gone on a five-game losing streak for the first time under Morrill. The Aggies have fallen to ninth in Mountain West play, and have yet to win a conference game away from the Spectrum.

But the program is trying to wipe away the bitter taste of the first half of its Mountain West slate. In some ways, it simply must start fresh as it prepare for Nevada on Wednesday night.

"Anytime you're in the midst of a losing streak, your energy and your attitude are important," Morril said. "We're telling the team not to give in, not to lose confidence, the kind of things that can happen."

He said Tuesday that the Aggies would go with a more conventional lineup to start their next game after trying to start their five most productive players against Wyoming. The coaching staff was unimpressed with the results of that experiment in a 17-point loss to the Cowboys.

What the team has worked on is effort and execution — two factors Morrill said he's had in past teams, but this group hasn't been consistent with.

"The last couple games, we've come out lazy," JoJo McGlaston said. "Coach is challenging us to be that spark."

That "spark" was missing in Utah State's first game against Nevada, a team that has quickly improved in conference play. Now at 7-2 against the Mountain West, the Wolf Pack have become a versatile offensive team. Senior guard Deonte Burton is a well-established scoring threat who is at the top of the league, but Nevada has three other scorers who average 11.5 points per game or more.

There's also the defense to contend with: Shot-blocker A.J. West has quickly established himself as a strong paint presence, and the Wolf Pack defend the 3-point line well. Last time they teams played, the Aggies shot only 31.4 percent from the field, and made only two 3-pointers.

That can't happen again. USU is hoping home-court advantage can help turn the game its way, but the Aggies know it will take more than they've given in their past few losses to finally get over the hump. "It certainly helps us when our crowd is into the game and trying to figure out a way to get us over the top, but we have to play good basketball," Morrill said. —

Nevada at Utah State

O Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan

Tipoff • Wednesday, 7 p.m.

TV • ROOT Sports. Radio •Â 1280 AM

Records • USU 12-9, 2-7; Nevada 12-10, 7-2

Series history •Â USU leads, 31-16

Last meeting • Jan. 1 at Nevada; Nevada 62, USU 54

About the Aggies •Â Utah State finds itself in its first five-game losing streak since coach Stew Morrill took over the program in 1998. … The Aggies are 11-1 this year when leading at halftime.

About the Wolf Pack •Â Senior guard Deonte Burton ranks No. 3 in school history with 1,921 points, and needs only 18 to tie Marcelus Kemp for No. 2. … The team leads the Mountain West in field goal percentage defense (37.5) and 3-point percentage defense (27.4) in its nine league games.