Before the BYU basketball team traveled to Logan in December of 2009 to take on Utah State, I remember asking Jimmer Fredette if he consided the Aggies a big rival.
"I guess they are," Fredette said, not sounding convinced. "Everybody says they are."
No such trepidation now among the Cougars to call Utah State a big basketball rival. BYU players and coach Dave Rose met the media on Monday afternoon after practicing in the Marriott Center, and the words "big game" were spoken often.
BYU (19-8) and Utah State (18-6) meet Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the game that was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 5.
"We are excited for it, and I am sure they are as well," BYU's Brandon Davies said. "We are just excited to finally get it going. It was postponed for a little bit, so the hype coming into it kind of died a little bit, I guess, but they are going to come in here ready to play, and we need to be ready to beat them."
I asked Davies where Utah State is on BYU's rivalry scale.
"All the rivalry games are fun games. Everybody gets up for them. They are always good games, so it is hard to put them above anyone, or below anyone," he said. "Obviously, Utah is our biggest rival, but these guys want to beat us as well, so it makes it that much better."
Of course, today is President's Day, so there were no classes at BYU, which meant the players practiced around lunchtime, instead of at 3 p.m. or so.
Davies was asked by Jason Franchuk of the Provo Daily Herald to name his favorite president.
"President Monson," Davies said, after a long pause.
The game pits two of the best post players in the West, Davies and USU's Jarred Shaw, a 6-10 junior who is averaging 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.
"He's a great player," Davies said. "We will do some things as we do with everyone to try to stop him, and try to get them sped up."
As for the Cougars, Davies said he believes the Cougars are a reborn team after walloping Portland on Saturday night.
"We have turned over a new leaf that we need to be the aggressor in games. When everyone is doing that, everyone can get into the flow of things and all the guys can play really well for us," he said.
The last time Utah State and BYU played, they opened the 2011-12 season against each other in Logan. The Aggies took a 69-62 win, although both teams made 22 field goals. USU made two more three-pointers and five more free throws in a rather ugly game that featured 38 turnovers.
The only USU player who played in that game who will play Tuesday night is Jordan Stone, a backup post player from Sky View High. Stone scored one point in three minutes.
For BYU, Davies had 13 while being derided the entire game by the USU crowd.
Brock Zylstra was forced to play point guard because Matt Carlino was not yet eligible, and he struggled, to say the least. Zylstra committed five turnovers.
"Yes, I definitely do [remember it]," Zylstra said Monday. "That was a rough one over there."
Zylstra will play at the four (power forward) spot on Tuesday as coach Dave Rose goes with the same starting lineup he used in the Portland game. That means Craig Cusick will start again at the two spot and Josh Sharp will come off the bench at the four.
"I think we will try to build on the momentum we got the other night. I think we played well. We have kind of gone to individual matchups, as far as game-to-game, at times. But I think with the quick turnaround, this is a good way to go," Rose said.
Frankly, I was surprised that Rose agreed to reschedule the game for this date, seeing as how the Cougars travel to Saint Mary's on Thursday. But Zylstra and Davies both said they feel like it comes at a good time.
"I think it is a good time for us," Zylstra said. "Instead of having the full week of rest before playing on a Thursday, I think it is good to play this game, to play a spirited game, an emotional game for all of us to keep our mindset of attacking and being on attack at all times on offense and defense.... I mean it is always a big game for us, regardless of whether it is the first game of the year, like it was last year, or the last game of the year. I think both teams will be ready to play."
Does Zylstra consider Utah State as big a rival as Utah?
"I think it is pretty similar, in a way. They are both talented programs, they both have a lot of history. It is always going to be a fight. So I don't know if you can look back at the past of the scores of all these games, Utah and Utah State against BYU, but I am sure they are all tight. Most of them are under 10 for the most part. Everybody is ready to play."
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