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Aggieville: USU Sports
Steve Luhm and Lya Wodraska
Steve Luhm and Lya Wodraska cover Utah State athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. Lya Wodraska is on twitter at @LyaWodraska, Steve Luhm is on twitter at @sluhm

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Utah State coach Stew Morrill shouts instructions to his team during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game against San Diego State Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in San Diego. San Diego State won 60-45. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
Utah State notebook — slow starts, heading to The Pit, and 3-point shooting

Comeback kids, these Aggies are not. Almost any time an opponent has gone into the locker room with a halftime lead this year, they've been able to feel confident they'll win the game.

Going against the toughest team in the Mountain West on Tuesday, it makes it all the more important not to get behind early for Utah State.

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"We just have to be prepared earlier," Jordan Stone said. "We have to be ready by tipoff. We can't get behind."

Utah State is only 1-10 when trailing after one half. The biggest halftime margin it has overcome was when it played Weber State, and the Wildcats led 33-31.

The last two games in particular haven't played out well for Utah State, even though they went different directions. The Aggies were dominated in both first halves by the Aztecs and the Bulldogs. In the second half of San Diego State, it stayed that way. In the second half against Fresno, Utah State made a game of it before eventually falling by three points.

Morrill said he's felt that his team has played "tight" in its last few outings, perhaps negatively influenced by pressure after losses. The slow starts may be a reflection of that. He said he'd try to steer them in another direction to prepare for the Lobos.

"I think this week needs to be about having fun playing and playing hard without worrying so much. That's the way we'll play the best."

***

Another tough destination

Perhaps one of the biggest adjustments for the Aggies in the conference switch has been the venues they've been playing in. Just a week since playing in front of a sellout crowd at Viejas Arena in front of The Show, Utah State now heads to one of the loudest and most packed arenas in the country: The Pit. The Lobos have only 13 losses since 2007 in their home arena.

Woof.

Utah State is used to claiming conference dominance in homecourt advantage, and for many Aggies fans, they may still. But Morrill said going to the Mountain West has definitely been a step up.

"We got kind of spoiled in the Big West and the WAC," he said. "We'd all kind of puff our chest out and say that our arena and crowd were better than anybody's. In this league, there's a lot of great crowds. With us losing some games our crowd has dropped off a little bit."

Morrill has played in the Pit a few times, the most memorable of which was a last-second win over New Mexico when he was at Colorado State. The last time the Aggies visited the Pit was in 1979, back in the days of Dean Hunger and Brian Jackson.

"It's a really good place to play," Stone said. "We're excited to see it. We're going to have to be ready."

***

Three-point key

This week in interesting statistics: Just how critical is it for Utah State to shoot well from 3-point range? By wins and losses, it seems very important.

It's a little surprising to see that Utah State is still the No. 4 team in the nation in 3-point shooting at 40.7 percent, because the team hasn't played like it. Over the last three games, all losses, Utah State is shooting only 31.5 percent from 3-point range.

When shooting better from beyond the arc than its opponent, Utah State is 12-5. When it hasn't, the Aggies are only 3-6. Utah State hasn't won a Mountain West game without at least shooting 39.6 percent.

There's going to be a lot more in play going against a team that can bang like New Mexico, but expect the Aggies to try to get rolling from the 3-point line - it can only help.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



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