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Utah State basketball: Aggies working out black hole in the post
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Basketballs have had a recent habit of disappearing in the low post.

Utah State gets possession, then passes the ball into the big men. And once there, the ball doesn't often come back, for better or worse.

The remaining healthy frontcourt players — Jarred Shaw, Matt Lopez, Jordan Stone and Ben Clifford — have combined for 24 turnovers and only two assists in conference play.

Ball control issues are not limited to those four, but the concern is that the big guys are having trouble getting dishes as well. Whereas the other four healthy players have a 1.64 assist-to-turnover ratio, for the big men, it's a meager 0.13.

That doesn't meet the blueprint coach Stew Morrill has for a winning team.

"We've run a lot of offense through guys like Tai Wesley, Spencer Nelson and Nate Harris, and even our 5-guys have been oftentimes really good passers, all the way back," Morrill said. "That's been a struggle at times for us."

Denver swarmed the post in Utah State's 68-57 loss on Saturday, flustering the Aggies' big men for a combined nine turnovers. That approach might become more popular in the remaining conference schedule, as Jarred Shaw becomes arguably the main focal point on offense.

"Every time we caught the ball, there were three or four people on us," Shaw said after the defeat to the Pioneers. "Haven't seen much of that this year, so it took time to get adjusted. I will take responsibility on this one. Four turnovers — that's unacceptable."

Ball security is not Utah State's only problem, but it is a pressing one. With Lopez, Stone and Clifford each getting more time, it will be key for the Aggies to find ways not just to pass into the post, but pass out of it as well.

Mavericks' defense a concern

The Aggies are coming off a loss to one of the nation's toughest scoring defenses, aiming to bounce back at home — against another one of the nation's toughest scoring defenses.

UT Arlington allows only 60.8 points per game, and opponents have only shot 38.3 percent against them, good for 28th-best in Division I. Although the Mavericks are the lowest-scoring team in the WAC and are barely at .500, the way they play defense makes them a threat against injury-depleted Utah State. Morrill spoke of their pressure at length in his Tuesday news conference.

"They will run and jump: If we are not solid with the ball, they can cause a lot of turnovers," Morrill said. "Their man-to-man defense is their base, and they are very good in it."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

UT Arlington at Utah State

O Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (Logan)

Tipoff • Thursday, 7 p.m.

TV • KMYU; Radio • (97.5 FM)

Records • Utah State 14-3, 5-2; UT Arlington 8-8, 3-4

Series history • Utah State leads 1-0

Last meeting • USU 73, UTA 69 (Dec. 20, 2011)

About the Aggies • Utah State returns home after losing two straight on the road. … Three starters in the season opener — Preston Medlin, Danny Berger and Kyisean Reed — are now out for extended time with injuries. … Spencer Butterfield has scored in double digits in seven of his last 10 contests. … Utah State is leading the WAC in field-goal percentage (48.8 percent), 3-point percentage (38.5 percent) and rebounding margin (plus 7.8).

About the Mavericks • UT Arlington is one of the best in the nation at field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to only 38.3 percent from the floor. … The Mavericks are also on a two-game losing streak, dropping contests last week to Seattle and Idaho.

Utah State notes • Big men have turned over the ball a lot, but assist only a little.
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