Thursday was one of the longest days of the season for Utah State basketball.
It consisted of getting in at the wee hours of the morning, waking up a few hours later to watch film from a disappointing one-point loss, then trying to put together practice to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Even Stew Morrill, business-like as he is, couldn't help but lament how close his Aggies came, even when they didn't play well.
"It was interesting as we broke down the tape because we talked about all the defensive errors that there were - giving up a high percentage, fouling a bunch," he said. "In watching the tape that was our emphasis for our breakdown. We also talked about how we needed to make a shot. We had seven minutes with one basket. We were 1-for-11, counting Jalen's last-second heave."
One basket, Morrill said, could've been the difference.
Morrill compared the loss to the Aggies' first-ever WAC game against Hawaii when USU lost, 69-59, at home. It opened his team's eyes, he said, and helped key a run that would lead the Aggies to a NCAA tournament berth.
That may be a high hope for this year's team, which has started out with a road loss to one of the conference's lesser squads. But Morrill also isn't trying to look that far ahead. The Aggies have their first Mountain West home game this week, and they don't want to get ambushed again.
"It's on to the next thing after watching our miscues against Air Force," he said. "We're turning our attention to San José State and that's where it needs to be right now."
Utah State's freshman forward Jalen Moore has been working his way into a bigger role for the Aggies, and with more minutes, he's getting more out of it.
Moore was on the court for 24 minutes on Wednesday, getting a career-best 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including two 3-pointers, and adding a rebound and a steal. He's now scored in double digits twice in the past three games, and he's also been defending several positions coming off the bench.
Morrill said he still wants to see the lanky frosh be more physical, especially when he's playing in the post. He was a little outmuscled on rebound attempts against Air Force, and could stand to be more productive there. But in all, the coaches are very happy about what they've seen from Moore lately, and he'll likely be an integral player going forward.
"We're obviously a little more patient with him as a freshman, but we're encouraged by him and his production," Morrill said. "You look at what he gets done with his time on the floor and he gets quite a bit done."
The Aggies enjoyed a 2-0 record against San Jose State last season, as Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield had some of their best games, respectively, against the Spartans.
On Saturday, there will be some familiar faces, such as D.J. Brown and Chris Cunningham who gave Utah State problems last year. But up to six freshmen have played minutes this season - Jalen James is in the starting lineup, while Rashad Muhammad is the team's leading scorer.
The Aggies recruited Muhammad, the younger brother of NBA guard Shabazz Muhammad, last year. Morrill said his production has been a combination of his skill set and getting opportunities to play. Muhammad's shooting skills are one reason the Spartans are leading the Mountain West in 3-pointers per game (9.8).
But youth is also reflected in some of the Spartans' stats: The team has the lowest-ranked turnover margin in the conference (minus-2.85), and the 10th-ranked assist-to-turnover ratio (1.0).
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