Utah State has the winning blueprint for its game Wednesday.
The Aggies have followed it successfully. Twice.
Mountain West Conference
At The Thomas & Mack Center
Wednesday, March 12
Utah State vs. Colorado State, 3 p.m.
Fresno State vs. Air Force, 5:30 p.m.
Boise State vs. San Jose State, 8 p.m.
Thursday, March 13
San Diego State vs. Utah State-Colorado State winner, 1 p.m.
UNLV vs. Wyoming, 3:30 p.m.
New Mexico vs. Fresno State-Air Force winner, 7 p.m.
Nevada vs. Boise State-San Jose State winner, 9:30 p.m.
Friday, March 14
San Diego State—Utah State-Colorado State winner vs. UNLV-Wyoming winner, 7 p.m.
New Mexico—Fresno State-Air Force winner vs. Nevada—Boise State-San Jose State winner, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 15
Semifinal winners, 4 p.m.
That doesn’t make taking on Colorado State (16-15, 7-11) much easier. The Rams know how to bump, and it makes for tough, defense-first games. But at least Utah State (17-13, 7-11) is working with a little extra confidence.
"We know what we did right the first two times," Spencer Butterfield said. "We just gotta be able to do that a third time and be determined on defense. I think we’ll get the same result."
What Utah State did in each of those game was slow Colorado State’s offense to a crawl. In the Aggies’ 57-50 home win on Jan. 15, the Rams scored only nine points outside of the output from J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano. The next meeting, at Fort Collins on Feb. 11, went worse for CSU, as the team shot under 30 percent from the floor and trailed by as much as 19. USU won 71-62.
The Rams’ main threats are Bejarano and Avila, who were named second- and third-team all-Mountain West selections respectively. But the Rams also are No. 7 in the nation in not turning the ball over, get to the free-throw line a ton, and rebound with some of the best teams in the country.
The last time they met, the Aggies outrebounded the Rams by 13, a key stat of the game. But Colorado State has also gotten 20 or more free-throw attempts in each of the two earlier games.
As the Aggies go for the sweep, they recognize there’s always things they can do better.
"A lot of the games they’ve played have been really close, really tough games," Preston Medlin said. "Hopefully we can play good defense and make some open looks."
Butterfield, Shaw earn league honors
The two Aggies who earned all-conference nods last year got some again on Monday afternoon when the Mountain West announced its postseason teams.
Both Butterfield and Jarred Shaw were honorable-mention all-league performers, the only Utah State players to get on the all-conference list. Shaw led the Aggies in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.4 rpg) while Butterfield was the second-leading scorer and led the conference with a 47.5 percent 3-point shooting percentage.
The duo were second-team all-WAC last season, but Butterfield said such honors are secondary to what’s at stake this week.
"I’m honored to get that accolade, but we definitely got more things to do as a team," he said.
Absent from the list was Medlin, who was the team’s third-leading scorer (12.6 ppg) and was third in conference in assists (4.2 apg).
"Everybody wants to be selected on those teams," he said. "It was tough for me this year. I’ll have to use it as motivation to play better and help this team win."
San Diego State grabbed many of the top individual honors, with Xavier Thames earning Player of the Year and Steve Fisher earning Coach of the Year. New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams, Nevada’s Deonte Burton and Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr also were honored.
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