Cougars face rare early Aggie showdown

The Cougars haven't been afforded a great deal of time to continue to gel after their season-opening win against Fresno State, as they have a tough test awaiting them this Wednesday night against Utah State. Since Coach Rose took over, BYU has faced Utah State anywhere from their sixth game to their 10th game of the season, but now must deal with the Aggies in game two.

The good news is that all in all, the Cougars played very well in the 83-56 victory against Fresno State last Saturday.

"I thought we did a good job," said Jackson Emery. "Obviously it was a first game, you could tell. We were a little rusty at times, we were a little slow getting going in the first and second half, but I thought for the most part we played really hard and played really well together."

However, Utah State should be a much different test.

"I do expect a lot more resistance from Utah State because they're more experienced, they're more of an upper-class group [with] their upperclassmen," said Coach Rose. "I think that they also have a real tradition of winning, and when you play a team like that you gotta be really patient. You gotta still play and attack, and still play with an aggressive mindset, but knowing that you're going to get a lot of resistance."

Yes, facing Utah State so early this season is a unique challenge indeed. The Aggies return four starters (only losing WAC First-Team selection Jared Quayle) from last year's team that went 27-8 and beat BYU up in Logan.

"It's a tough game for both teams to play such a high-caliber team right away," said Jimmer Fredette. "We know the team and system pretty well, but there's some new guys we don't know about ... Both teams will be at a disadvantage this early in the season, but it's the same disadvantage, so we're just excited to go out there and play."

The Cougars will need to figure out the Aggies quickly and adjust, Fredette said.

Still, the Cougars should have a pretty good idea of what to expect on Wednesday.

"Just like every year, you know exactly what to expect out of Utah State," said Emery. "They play hard, they're very efficient, they run their stuff really well."

So, the Cougars will look to take the Aggies out of what they do well, Emery said, and will try and rush them and play more up-tempo.

Obviously the Cougars do want to play at a fast pace, but the Aggies might be better equipped to play at that pace this year with the addition of point guard Brokieth Pane, a junior college transfer. In USU's season-opening 77-65 win against Weber State, Pane led the Aggies with 23 points.

"I think that it gives them another weapon to be able to really push that ball in transition and to look for points in transition," said Coach Rose. "They've always been a great half-court executing team, and I think they'll obviously continue to be that, but this may give them another look. He's pretty impressive."

However, the Aggies may have their biggest advantage in the post, and BYU's post players will have their work cut out for them against USU. However, Rose has found something he likes in playing forwards Noah Hartsock and Chris Collinsworth at the same time because of the skill sets they each bring.

"I think the two of them complement each other well, but our post play needs to continue to get better," said Rose. "That will be a real factor in how our team progresses. Right now Utah State's post game is pretty established. You've got one of the best post guys [Tai Wesley] in the West Coast playing that's been there for four years, so hopefully we'll be able to be up to the task."

One of the keys for the Cougars will be getting off to a quick start, something they didn't do against Fresno State.

"It's definitely very important," Fredette said of starting quickly. "It's something that Coach is stressing this week. Obviously we started slow both halves [against FSU], and that's something we can't do because we could get in a big hole early, and it's tough to get out of that with a team like Utah State who's disciplined and plays well and works for good shots. So we need to come out strong and hopefully progress from there."

Not that the Cougars lack the desire to win, but after losing to Utah State last season, they could have added motivation to beat the Aggies.

"I hope so," said Rose. "We've got a bunch of competitive guys, and sometimes it doesn't really mean a lot, but I think in this situation they have a lot of returners and we have a lot of returners. But any time you play an instate game, there's a lot of emotion involved."

"For me, I don't like to get beat twice by the same team," said Emery. "It's kind of [like] you don't learn, you don't learn how to beat them, and it kind of proves that the other team's better than you."

Emery actually sprained his ankle shortly before the Utah State game last year and then received an elbow to the face during that game. Clearly, it just wasn't his game, but he's hoping to make up for that this time around.

The good news is that although he got a little banged up prior to the start of this season – surprise, surprise – he says he is doing well now.

"I feel good. Obviously it's part of my game to be banged up to play, but for the most part I feel great."

Beating the Aggies would be a nice victory for the Cougars, should they prevail Wednesday night.

"Any game's important, but against a top-quality team like Utah State, it gives you a little more confidence than maybe just an average team," said Emery.


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