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USU basketball • Aggies' big test: Oakland on Sunday

Published March 24, 2012 7:49 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • Now, the end is near for Utah State, win or lose.

Now, the Aggies can see what waits for them, and that's the opportunity to win a postseason championship, and the chance to hang a banner in the hallowed Spectrum.

Utah State has advanced to the semifinal round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament with an offense that's been more efficient than it has all season and a defense that suddenly became unyielding in the last four weeks.

As for teams, the Aggies have dispatched good ones, like Loyola Marymount and Idaho. Now comes Oakland, which will head into Logan for a rare Sunday afternoon contest. Ever conscious of religion in Utah, Stew Morrill was almost apologetic about the timing of the matchup.

But he has nothing to be sorry for concerning USU's play of late.

"The thing that's really encouraging is that we've really had fun playing basketball," Morrill said. "That says something when you get to this point in the season and you're not in the main event. It says something about your team and for your players."

With Oakland comes another big test for the Aggies, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Reggie Hamilton, for two years, has been one of the most explosive guards in college basketball, capable of taking games over with his ability to score.

Morrill compared Hamilton with Damian Lillard, the Weber State point guard who is expected to enter the upcoming NBA draft and be a possible lottery pick. Another concern for the Aggies is pace, since Oakland averages almost 82 points per game.

Slowing the game down will be a key aspect for Utah State. Doing so could go a long way toward propelling USU into Wednesday night's title game against Mercer, which would be at the Spectrum should the Aggies win.

"I'm really impressed with how they play and their style of play," Morrill said. "They come in here with 20 wins and obviously they feel really good about their performance in this tournament. Obviously it starts with Hamilton. He really opens up their offense with his ability to get to the free-throw line."

tjones@sltrib.comTwitter: @tonyaggieville —

Oakland at Utah State

P Where • The Spectrum, Logan

Tipoff • 4 p.m. MDT

TV • None

Radio • 97.5 FM

Records • Utah State 20-15; Oakland 20-15

Series History • First-ever meeting between the schools

About the Oakland Grizzlies • Oakland plays in the Summit League with Southern Utah. … The Grizzlies are 8-9 on the road this year. … Oakland went to the NCAA Tournament last season. … Reggie Hamilton leads the nation in scoring with 26.3 points per game

About the Utah State Aggies • USU is 17-2 all-time against current members of the Summit League. … USU made 32-35 free-throws against Loyola Marymount in the quarterfinal round. … The winner advances to Wednesday's final. … The Aggies are five games over the .500 mark for the first time this season