Utah State’s opponents have complained for years about the Aggies’ screens.
This year, those complaints are actually getting somewhere, Stew Morrill said ruefully on Friday.
Mississippi State at Utah StateAt Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (Logan)
Tipoff » Saturday, 7 p.m.
Radio » 1280 AM
Records » Utah State 3-0; MSU 3-0
Series history » MSU leads 1-0
Last meeting » MSU 66, USU 64 (Dec. 31, 2011)
About the Aggies » Preston Medlin is now No. 34 in school history, crossing the 1,000-point mark in his last game against UC Santa Barbara. … Utah State is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range, and three Aggies have made at least six 3-pointers in the first three games. … Utah State is 3-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
About the Bulldogs » Mississippi State has outscored opponents by a 20-point average and has a 12.7 average rebounding advantage in its first three games. … Four players average double-digit scoring for the Bulldogs, led by Gavin Ware’s 15.7 points per game. … Ware also leads the team in rebounding, averaging 12 per game.
"You watch on film and screens that we used to set, the officials are now feeling that some of those are illegal," he said. "For years, coaches have complained about some of our screens being illegal — and they might have been — but that’s always the edge you live on when you’re trying to teach offense."
It might be counter-intuitive, then, to see how well the Aggies have fared on offense this year. In a system that relies heavily on screens, so far, Utah State has been very productive.
Morrill isn’t surprised, however. It’s what he’s expected out of a veteran-heavy unit with a lot of solid shooters.
"We’ve got some veteran players, and offense is always something that through our years in our program has always been a pretty strong facet with the percentages we shoot and the assist-to-turnover and things," he said. "It’s something we’ve prided ourselves on through the years. We’ll see if it continues."
Utah State is averaging 79.7 points per game, shooting 46 percent from 3-point range, and has averaged 17.2 assists per game. Efficiency has been the team’s best mark so far, as the Aggies have a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, third-best in the conference entering the week.
While Southern Utah may have been a wash, wins over USC and a scrappy UC Santa Barbara team seem to be much more affirming. So far, no one’s been able to stop Utah State’s inside-outside combo of scoring — never mind the screens.
"It’s everybody," TeNale Roland said. "One through four can shoot. When teams double down on Slim [Jarred Shaw], it opens one of us up. That gets us wide-open 3s."
Having reliable low-post scoring options, particularly in Shaw, has helped the Aggies compensate for having to pull back on some of their screens. That brand of offense should be tested against SEC foe Mississippi State on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs have held opponents to a 61-point average, and Morrill said he expects them to play smothering, man-to-man pressure defense.
"They’re going to be well aware that we’re a good 3-point shooting team and that we have some shooters," he said. "We’ve got to execute particularly well to get guys open."
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