BYU’s basketball players and coaches know what to expect from Utah State’s crowd and student section Saturday night when they travel to the Spectrum to take on the Aggies.
“I haven’t played there yet, but I guess they have a great student section,” said BYU sophomore Yoeli Childs, a Bingham High product. “I have heard a lot of great things about it, so it is going to be a fun environment. That’s why you play, for moments like that, to go out and play against a good team in a good environment.”
What will BYU get from USU’s injury-riddled team? That’s anybody’s guess.
Tipoff for BYU’s first game at USU since a 91-81 win in 2014 is at 7 p.m. and will be televised by AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain.
Utah State (4-4) is a mystery team because the Cougars are unsure which of its stars will play. For instance, starting point guard Koby McEwen is listed as day-to-day with a sprained ankle and has not played since scoring 11 points in USU’s last home game, an 83-47 win over Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 15.
McEwen, who is from Toronto but played high school basketball at Wasatch Academy in Sanpete County, is the reigning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and a real difference-maker. Senior guard Julion Pearre (calf) has yet to play this season, and backup guard Brock Miller (foot) has missed the last three games.
Big man Norbert Janicek is out for the season with a knee injury.
What is known about the Aggies is that sophomore guard Sam Merrill is playing a lot of minutes, and playing extremely well. The Bountiful High product had 19 points in USU’s 72-65 loss at undefeated Valparaiso on Tuesday and also had 19 in USU’s respectable 79-66 loss at No. 15 Gonzaga on Nov. 18.
Utah State also features freshman guard Crew Ainge, the youngest of former BYU great Danny Ainge’s six children.
“It is going to be a lot of fun,” said Childs, who scored a career-high 24 points in BYU’s 85-58 win over its first of four instate opponents this season, Utah Valley. “It is just a different vibe, and you know a lot of the guys personally. A lot of the guys are returned missionaries. I watched them growing up, so it is cool to go out there and play against guys you wanted to be like when you were younger.
“There is a rivalry in the stands. You can hear [talk] going back and forth. So instate games are a great environment to play in.”
The Cougars (5-2) will continue their instate tour against Weber State next Saturday in the inaugural Beehive Classic in Salt Lake City then play host to Utah on Dec. 16 in Provo. Coach Dave Rose said he enjoys the instate games “when they are over and we won,” as BYU did against crosstown rival UVU on Wednesday.
“But other than that, they are tough,” Rose said. “I will tell you, I hope everybody keeps playing them because they are really good for basketball in the state of Utah, and I think even non-Utah Valley fans and non-BYU fans are interested in the state, and this [BYU-UVU] game, and that’s the same way with the rest of the instate games.”
The Cougars got a boost Wednesday afternoon when Weber State transfer McKay Cannon received a waiver from the NCAA allowing him to play this season. He had eight points and six assists against the Wolverines. Cannon, who is from Shelley, Idaho, also knows that USU fans get excited when BYU comes to town.
“Everyone knows that tempers are high, and it is just fun,” Cannon said. “It is important to win instate games to try and make a statement.”
BYU AT UTAH STATE
At the Spectrum, Logan
Tipoff • 7 p.m. Saturday
TV • AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 5-2, USU 4-4
Series history • BYU leads 141-92
Last meeting • BYU won 77-63 (Nov. 30, 2016)
About the Cougars • They are 8-2 against the Aggies in the last 10 matchups and haven’t lost to USU in Logan since 2011. … They are coming off an 85-58 win over Utah Valley and have won two straight. … Junior G McKay Cannon, a Weber State transfer, scored eight points in the win over UVU just hours after learning the NCAA had granted him a waiver to play this season. … The Cougars posted a season-best 25 assists on 30 made field goals against UVU.
About the Aggies • They are coming off a 72-65 loss at undefeated Valparaiso (8-0) on Tuesday, despite 19 points from Bountiful’s Sam Merrill. … Sophomore G Koby McEwen, the reigning MWC Freshman of the Year, has an ankle injury and has not played since scoring 11 points in a home win over Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 15. … They are averaging 72.6 points per game and allowing 68.6 points per game.