Among the crop of new teams the Aggies will face this year in their new conference, Nevada is definitely one they know.
And the Wolfpack’s star guard, Deonte Burton, is definitely a guy they know.
Nevada at Utah StateSaturday
"Obviously, he’s a really good player," junior forward Danny Berger said, a moment before sighing and combing back through his lasting impression of the senior guard.
The memory that sticks out for Berger, Preston Medlin and Ben Clifford was that of Burton knocking down a 3-pointer with 11.8 seconds left. That shot gave Nevada a one-point victory over the Aggies in Reno on Feb. 2, 2012.
It was the last time the two teams would meet as WAC foes. Saturday, the Aggies have a mind to go back and get a different result.
But Burton has only continued to improve since that game. This year, his 21.8 points per game leads the Mountain West, and he’s also among the leading players in assists and shooting percentage. With 39.1 minutes per game, the Wolfpack barely ever takes him out.
With his slashing ability and scoring touch, more than a few experts see Burton as a future NBA draft pick — one the Aggies will have to contain on Saturday night.
Shoring up perimeter
Throughout the season, Utah State’s defensive strength has been its wall around the 3-point line. Opponents shoot past that line, and only 30.4 percent of those shots fall in.
Now, that ranking is good for No. 60 in the nation. But the percentage used to be lower, and the Aggies have the last three games to thank for the bump. San Diego Christian shot nine 3-pointers, Air Force shot six, then San Jose State blew the doors off with 15. All three teams shot 36 percent or better. With the Spartans, even reviewing the film, Berger said it was a tough challenge even when the Aggies did set up along the perimeter.
"They were shooting from pretty deep," he said. "They can hit it from anywhere when they get hot. But we can still get to them, try to get a hand in their face, change the shot."
Long-range defense has been an issue the Aggies have taken special notice of since the offseason. They got bombed last year, giving up nine or more 3-pointers in six of their 10 losses. Since the recent run of opponents getting good shooting percentages, they’ve picked up the effort again.
"We’ve been focusing on it in practice," senior guard TeNale Roland said. "We just can’t give up too many. We try for seven or less every game."
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