Utah State Aggies cite lack of discipline, toughness, character in three-game basketball slide

Utah State guard Sam Merrill (5) and San Diego State guard KJ Feagin (10) scramble for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (AP Photo/Eli Lucero)

Logan, we have a problem.

The Utah State basketball team has hit the mother of all rough patches, losing three consecutive games for the first time since before Craig Smith became coach last season. The Aggies have scored less than 70 points in each of the those games, and shot a paltry 24.1% from the 3-point line.

The losing streak is a stark departure from where the Aggies were just before then: winners of six of their last seven games and prevailing in close games. Now USU has the same number of conference losses as it did all of last season, and there’s still 13 games remaining in the regular season.

So what exactly has been the issue? Smith said the Aggies team of the past week simply didn’t look like the one that used to be ranked 15th in the country.

“It’s been a rough seven days for sure,” Smith said. “Two of those games felt like we just weren’t ourselves. We were really out of character. Really showed a lack of discipline, showed a lack of toughness certainly for long stretches.”


At the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan

Tipoff • 6 p.m.


Two of the three teams Utah State lost to currently don’t have winning records. The only one that does is San Diego State, which is 15-0 and ranked No. 7 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.

Smith said his team played well for the first 17 minutes in the loss to Air Force, but the Aggies “lost discipline and character” in the second half.

Smith hinted that the current losing streak may have been inevitable. Despite winning games in November and December, the team’s assist totals started to decline and players took more and more bad shots, he said.

“We weren’t consistently, on the offensive end, playing the type of basketball that we need to play,” Smith said.

Now the Aggies face a Nevada team Saturday that, while not as flashy as last season’s squad, still has a 3-1 record in the Mountain West Conference. Smith acknowledged that Saturday against the Wolf Pack is important for Utah State.

“I was excited about our mindset,” Smith said. “We showed up ready to go to work and weren’t sulking and pouting. But certainly we’re taking things very, very seriously and trying to get back to our own ways and that’s toughness and trust and playing as a team all the time and sharing the ball and just having a different mindset.”

Smith said that during this losing streak, he’s thought about changing his rotation, adding that the players know “everything is on the table” in that regard. He cited the colloquial definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

“The bottom line is guys have to produce,” Smith said. “I have to push the right buttons as a coach and find the right personnel, scheme, motivation, culture, all of that, and make sure the right guys are on the bus moving forward. We’ll make sure that happens.”

Smith said he did not feel his team had the mentality in the past that it had to earn wins, and hopes that a few positive team and individual meetings have started to turn that around.

“We have to control the controllables and have maximum effort and let the chips fall where they may,” Smith said.

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