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Utah State basketball: Aggies shaky ahead of final few tests

Published February 24, 2014 8:26 am

Utah State basketball • Visit to daunting New Mexico is up next.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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 •Â There were definite hopeful notes in the voices of the Aggies on Saturday night, even after a 79-76 loss to Fresno State.

Maybe it was just because the game had seemed so close, so within reach in the final minutes. Utah State's three-game win streak is now cold after three straight losses, but also close enough to remember, and maybe that gave them optimism as well.

The setback against the Bulldogs assured the Aggies of a losing record in conference play, but Jarred Shaw said he felt his team could still go to Albuquerque and beat New Mexico in only three days.

"I look at it as another opportunity to get a win, and I'll go in there with that mindset," he said. "I feel like if everybody put their mind toward defense and rebounding, we could really do it."

But what overshadowed the Aggies' close loss was the game that USU coach Stew Morrill had compared to the Super Bowl: The Lobos won convincingly over No. 6-ranked San Diego State in a 58-44 rout. And after an uneven performance — one that has become characteristic of the Aggies this season — on its own home court, Utah State hardly looks suited to take on the top team in the Mountain West in one of the toughest venues in the country.

Morrill seemed to be wearily aware of this in his postgame comments. These last few games of the season, particularly the two road games coming up, will say a lot about Utah State's character and whether the team will be able to mount a respectable finish to an already disappointing year.

Losing to Fresno State at the Spectrum wasn't a step in the right direction.

"It's disappointing that we let them come in here and beat us, but we're not the most confident group right now," Morrill said. "We have to decide if we want to just play it out or play to win with three games left."

It discouraged the team to come out so slow, stumbling to a 16-point deficit in the first half. They had the advantage of being home, of having height and length. But for the first 16 minutes, the Aggies barely looked in the same class as the team right above them in the standings.

Utah State managed to find a spark and pull back in it, even leading in the second half, but falling behind early may have cost the Aggies. Morrill took the blame, saying that it didn't seem his team was ready to play.

Complete games this season have been hard to come by, and at times the Aggies have seemed to be seesawing in league play. When they play well defensively, the offense might have an off night. Or like Saturday, when they can shoot, they can't stop the other team.

To knock off — or realistically even stay within single digits of — a team like the Lobos, the Aggies will need a complete game. And they have three days to summon one out of themselves.

While they remained positive, the latest defeat didn't offer much encouragement that they were closer to that goal. They continue to seek it.

"We've had a lot of close losses this year," TeNale Roland said. "We've just got to keep battling. We can't start out slow like we did."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon —

Utah State at New Mexico

P Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV • CBS Sports Network —

Hitting the road

• The Aggies have games at New Mexico and San Jose State in the next week.

•Â Utah State has lost three straight games.

• The Aggies are 1-6 in conference play on the road this year.