Denver • On Saturday afternoon, Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed were forced to participate in the Denver game from a position neither of them is much used to: the bench.
The two starters who average the most minutes on the team were down near the end of the row, donning gray sweatsuits that indicated they wouldn't be coming in to help on the court. They still shared the emotions: cheering for big plays, showing dismay at officiating calls.
And when it was all over, like all the other Aggies, Medlin and Reed shared the long walk to the bus. Reed had a slight limp, indicating his balky knee. Medlin's ice wrap around his right wrist was less subtle.
No one particularly wanted to talk about hypotheticals after the 68-57 loss to Denver on Saturday, but Utah State could've used its two captains. It might not have won the game against the Pioneers, but it probably would've helped.
Stew Morrill knew that probably wouldn't happen on Friday, when both showed signs of injury following the New Mexico State game.
"Yesterday, Kyisean's knee was about that big," Morrill said, holding an invisible grapefruit in his hands. "Preston was basically playing with his left hand only. Well, that ain't gonna work. I was pretty sure this morning that's the news I would get, that neither one of them could go."
Neither had missed a game before Saturday. Combined, they contribute more than 28 points and 10 rebounds per contest, and neither of them has played fewer than 26 minutes this season.
Leadership might've been the most important thing missing in the game. Utah State was wading against the current in the first half, struggling to guard Denver's system and get inside for points.
A Medlin drive might've broken that unlucky streak. Or maybe a Reed dunk.
Most of the Aggies knew it was pointless to speculate.
"We had five guys who were able to play," Jarred Shaw said. "We fought back in the second half, we just fell short."
Utah State didn't know the extent of the injuries to its two biggest stars over the weekend, but the team was planning medical evaluations upon returning to Logan.
"We'll see what's up with our guys that are hurt," Morrill said. "We'll find out with X-rays and MRIs and all of that."
The scary question will be how serious the injuries are, and how long they might take to heal. It was a mostly unspoken concern among the Aggies on Saturday night. If it's more than a sprain, it could be devastating to Utah State's already slim roster.
The Aggies have so far refused to give in to the negative, believing that both could return by next Thursday.
"Obviously, they could've helped," Marvin Jean said. "But we just gotta bounce back. Two home games ahead, just gotta bounce back. And I'm pretty sure they'll be back."