Defense, defense, defense.
The Aggies are drilling into their heads after allowing 85 points from BYU: Utah State needs to be a better defensive team. And that's a familiar refrain from Stew Morrill by this point.
"We've got to come out with a lot more energy," junior center Jordan Stone said. "We got outworked that last game. We were off, and we need to play better."
The Cougars managed to make a lot of easy second-half shots by driving inside or getting putback attempts. Utah State has a paint problem: Opposing teams have shot nearly 50 percent inside the 3-point line.
The Aggies are defending the perimeter fairly well: Opponents are shooting only 24.9 percent of their 3-pointers. Stone said new rules have affected how Utah State can defend inside.
"You can't be quite as physical, and you can't do what was allowed last year," Stone said. "We've got to be careful with fouls and the way we play. But it goes both ways, so both teams are getting used to it."
Film study this week has emphasized those areas where the Aggies have struggled. A week-long break in between games has allowed Utah State to take time in practice to work on their defensive principles in preparation for Pacific on Saturday.
"We're going to have to guard the 3-point line and handle the ball screens," sophomore point guard Marcel Davis said. "When we communicate with each other, we're good."
Point guards look for more production
Through six games, three Utah State starters are averaging double digits and a fourth, Kyle Davis, is very nearly there with 9.5 points per game.
It's the point guard spot that has been a bit of a question mark so far for Utah State. Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland combined are averaging 9.7 ppg and 5.5 assists per game, with pretty even splits. The team's leader in assists is Preston Medlin, with 4.5 dishes per contest.
Roland has started every game so far, but Davis jockeyed for minutes against BYU with seven points and three assists. The two have a friendly competition at the spot, but they both might need to turn up the heat.
"I've got to be a little more aggressive," Davis said. "We've got to push our break a little better and make more plays."
Pacific at Utah State