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Utah State basketball: Balance, passing are Aggies' best weapons

Published January 5, 2014 6:48 pm

Utah State basketball • Team records assists on 69.5 percent of it baskets.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Logan • So Jarred Shaw wasn't exactly himself in his return.

The beauty for Utah State in an 86-67 victory over San Jose State: The Aggies didn't need him to be.

After a sketchy first-half effort that had barely kept Utah State ahead of the Spartans, the Aggies found a way to win by finding a better balance, arguably the team's biggest key to success this year.

With a team-high 20 points, TeNale Roland deservedly got a lot of credit. But five Aggies scored in double digits Saturday night, and none of them was Shaw. And that's a good thing for Utah State.

When so many Aggies can attack, it opens up opportunities for a player like Roland to shine.

"Preston [Medlin] was able to drive," Roland said. "It was good to get Jarred back tonight. He was able to give us a low presence. They were helping on him, so it opened up shots for us."

Every basketball team preaches sharing the ball and making the extra pass. Utah State is the rare team that has actually played that way.

Utah State has assists on 69.5 percent of its baskets, the best percentage in the nation, according to KenPom.com. Four guards are averaging 2.7 or more assists, with both Medlin and Marcel Davis among the Mountain West's top 10 in that category.

That sharing is a reflection of how many weapons Utah State has now that its roster once again includes Shaw. Without having to lean on Medlin and Spencer Butterfield's scoring as much as they were, the Aggies could be a dangerous team in the Mountain West.

Recent good performances from Roland and Jalen Moore coming off the bench also help diversify that attack. Moore's increased minutes are a reflection of his increased production: He has scored in double digits in three of his last four, and his awareness to grab boards off the rim is getting better.

"He's earning all the minutes he's getting right now, that's for sure," Morrill said of Moore, even before he scored 10 points and had five boards in the win over the Spartans.

Shaw, Medlin and Butterfield came in as an established trio. Kyle Davis has been a revelation as his double-doubles add up. With Roland, Moore and others chipping in off the bench, what's the best way to slow down Utah State offensively?

While the Aggies certainly have more concerns on defense to address — giving up 15 threes will keep them occupied in the film room this week — they're a stronger team now than they were only earlier in the week. Balance is the key that makes the Aggies run at their best.

And at their best — well, that may be something the rest of teams in the Mountain West are hoping they won't see.

kgoon@sltrib.com

Utah Stateshares the ball

The Aggies have been one of the best passing teams in the nation, with a handful of scoring threats:

• Utah State assists on a nation-best 69.5 percent of its made field goals.

• Aggies average 18.4 assists per game (ranked No. 6 entering the week).

• Four Aggies average double-figure scoring.

•Â Four USU players average 2.7 assists per game or better.