It's never easy to get over the kind of whipping Utah State suffered on Wednesday night. The Aggies hope a day off helps.
After catching an early flight home from Vegas on Thursday morning, Utah State took a day off from practice - to catch up on sleep mainly, but also to restore some mental health. It's been well-noted that the Aggies didn't shoot or rebound particularly well against UNLV in the 62-42 loss, and they know it, but on Friday afternoon, their focus was squarely ahead.
"We're really just trying to get past that game and keep a positive attitude," TeNale Roland said. "We need to be more physical and play tough on the court. We did it for one half, but we need to do it for a whole game to beat San Diego State."
Stew Morrill said he's been concerned that his team hasn't been able to put together both strong offense and defense lately. It's been a quandry for Utah State, which has shot under 32 percent twice in two of its past four games.
Of course, that's been on the road. The Aggies aren't anticipating more problems shooting the ball at the Spectrum. While San Diego State's defense has been elite this year, Preston Medlin said the team still has confidence it will bury its shots better than it did against UNLV.
"We don't have too many concerns about that," he said. "We know we can shoot the ball. We have a lot of athletes who can shoot. We're thinking it was a one-night thing."
Kyle Davis still questionable
Sophomore Kyle Davis' absence had a lot to do with the Aggies losing on the boards to UNLV: Utah State was outrebounded by 15.
Morrill said Friday morning he wasn't sure if Davis would be ready to go for Saturday's contest against the best offensive rebounding team in the conference.
"We'll see how he is at practice today," he said. "If anything, I would say the best way to classify it is a maybe."
The Aggies have struggled on the defensive glass even going back before Davis was injured: The last three opponents have gotten 12 or more offensive rebounds in the games. Medlin emphasized Friday afternoon that it's been a team focus.
"They're a really good team on offensive boards," he said. "We've got to get in there and box them out. That's a really big concern for us."
San Diego State's pressure cause for concern
Perhaps the biggest adjustment the Aggies will have to make Saturday is to San Diego State's unique brand of defense: Pressure, pressure, pressure.
The Aztecs are one of the few teams that defend the full court almost every possession. And they are very good at it. The length and relentlessness shown by SDSU is one of the main reasons they've allowed among the fewest points per game of any team in the nation.
"In that full-court, they will trap you," Morrill said. "Sometimes when you inbound it, they will deny your point guard sometimes, they will just pick you up and not trap you, or they will wait til around half-court to trap you. There are a lot of different scenarios in that full-court defense."
The aforementioned quick turnaround is a bit of a disadvantage for the Aggies as they try to read the possibilities of that defense, but they spent much of Friday's practice working on it.
"They'll do a lot of stuff to mess you up in the full court," Medlin said. "We think we have a good enough feel for it to be prepared for Saturday night."
Aggies expecting big student turnout
As mentioned in the story about the "I Believe" chant, Utah State has a lot of factors lining up for attendance: The football team is doing an autograph session and will be honored at halftime, the students are planning a "White-out," and the game itself with be on ESPNU with a top-10 ranked opponent. Although the student sections haven't been fully packed this year, the conditions are set to turn that around.
"Obviously we feed off our crowd," Roland said. "Being on the home court is great for us. Hopefully we can send a good message to the crowd by winning this game."
Morrill echoed that sentiment, saying the team will need energy and any extra edge it can get to compete with SDSU. He'll be knotting up some sneakers in honor of the national "Coaches vs. Cancer" promotion, but admitted he won't be wearing white. He'll leave that to the fans.
And here's a notice: What follows is a pretty killer quote.
"I guess I could Pitino it and wear a white suit, but that would take a lot of material that I don't have right now, so I probably won't do that," he said.
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