Spartans Host Utah State On Saturday

The Utah State Aggies (19-6, 9-2 WAC) bring their nine game win streak to San Jose on Saturday night to face the San Jose State Spartans (12-11, 5-6 WAC), who have a nice seven game home win streak of their own, and are 9-1 overall this season at Walt McPherson Court. Inside Sparta's Kevin McCarthy previews the game, which tips off at 7:00 PM PST.

The Utah State basketball Aggies aren't exactly a force that sends shivers down the spines of PAC-10, Big East, Big 10, ACC and Southeastern Conference basketball fans.

That's their ignorance.

Of course and for good W-L reasons, none of the respective head coaches at those schools will come to Logan for a game or even agree to a home-and-home series. They know better and luckily -- for them -- they don't have to make such a deal. It's Maslow's self-preservation need in orange spherical form.

Western Athletic Conference fans are the ones in the know about Aggie power. Always tough -- mentally and physically -- and displaying fundamental skills, Coach Stew Morrill's squads possess solid basketball talent but also demonstrate the synergy of the sum being greater than the individual parts.

Especially this season when probably none of the Aggies will earn first-team All-WAC honors.

For example, take the recent game where Nevada traveled to Logan for a rematch after a late loss at home. The Wolf Pack were led by Luke Babbitt's 20 points (plus nine boards) and 19 from Armon Johnson, shot 44% overall and also swatted away nine Aggie shot attempts.

In contrast, Utah State shot 39.7%.

So how did Coach Morrill's team win 76-65?

Try just four USU turnovers.

Add in that Nevada shot but eight free throws.

Additionally, Utah State won the battle of the boards 43-33, with 21 of those rebounds coming at the offensive end.

All this illustrates that the Aggies 'get over' opposing teams in multiple manners, thereby enhancing the odds of nabbing victories. They might not wow anyone but they'll whip you.

They will be at Walt McPherson Court on Saturday evening, arriving on a nine-game WAC win streak.

Here is what happened the last time (January 30) SJSU and USU met:

"Utah State started out the game hot and enjoyed a 10-point first half lead at one point. It would have been easy to panic at that point but San Jose State instead fought back and closed the gap. A Mac Peterson trey made it 29-all, it was again a tie at 34 apiece and then 36-up after a successful Justin Graham dribble-drive. Eventually, the Spartans trailed by three at the buzzer after a Graham three--pointer was waved off.

But the Aggies cranked it up again coming out in the second 20 minutes and SJSU couldn't respond, resulting in a 77-58 victory for USU. This even though C.J. Webster forced Utah State 'big' Tai Wesley into his third foul and a trip to the bench early in the second half.

At the 15-minute mark, San Jose State was again down by 10 -- the Spartans having gone through an 0-5 shooting stretch while the Aggies went 4-5.

The lead went to 11, then 12 and then 13 with 11 minutes to go. At the nine-minute mark, the deficit was 16 and no longer closeable. The Spartans shot 21% in the second half, scoring just 22 points.

Adrian Oliver paced SJSU with 19 points (5-16 shooting) and Peterson contributed 11 (3-12 shooting) -- the same total he had at the conclusion of the first half.

We wrote this about Nate Bendall in our game preview: "He's the replacement for Gary Wilkinson, smaller and certainly not as dominant at 7.9 ppg. and 3.7 rpg. -- he does shoot well from both the floor and foul line but needs setting up." Bendall led Utah State with 20 points (9-14), a goodly percentage on putbacks after offensive rebounds.

Brady Jardine totaled 17 (8-11 shooting) -- a season and career high for him. Pooh Williams added 14. Here is how we described him in the preview: "Always a worthy defender, he really helps the Aggies when his shot is on."

Williams played the best defense this season on Oliver and also hit a trio of treys (3-6 from long range) -- yet he is inexplicably 18-36 at the foul line this season.

For the game, San Jose State shot 36%, 7-23 on treys and 13-15 from the foul line. Utah State shot 55%, went 9-18 on three-pointers and 4-5 at the charity stripe. The Aggies had a small lead in overall rebounding at 32-27. With turnovers, USU committed eight to seven for SJSU.

After the first 20 minutes, Peterson led San Jose State with the aforementioned 11 points while Oliver was just behind with 10. SJSU shot 13-24 overall, 5-11 from three-point range. Utah State went 15-31, 5-10 from long distance. The Aggies nabbed 16 boards, half on the offensive end to 11 for the Spartans. But the first five minutes of the second period un-did San Jose State."


USU's WAC schedule/results

1/02/10 @ New Mexico State L, 55-52
1/04/10 @ Louisiana Tech L, 82-60
1/11/10 vs Hawai'i W, 98-54
1/13/10 @ Nevada W, 79-72 (OT)
1/16/10 vs. Boise State W, 81-59
1/21/10 @ Fresno State W, 69-43
1/23/10 @ Idaho W, 60-48
1/30/10 vs. San Jose State W, 77-58
2/03/10 vs. Idaho W, 80-62
2/06/10 vs. Nevada W, 76-65

Utah State's Starting Five

6-foot-9 Nate Bendall - He's the replacement for Gary Wilkinson, smaller and certainly not as dominant but he plays smart.

6-foot-7 Tai Wesley - Call him the enforcer on the court, he's also the best Aggie inside shooter and rebounder at 12.1 ppg and 6.7 rpg. -- plus, he has taken the most foul shots on the USU roster due to his aggressiveness.

6-foot- 3 Pooh Williams - Always a worthy defender, he really helps the Aggies when his shot is on -- a 42% shooter from long range yet just 55% from the foul line.

6-foot-4 Tyler Newbold - Not necessarily a creator, he's more a long distance shooter as two thirds of his shots are trey attempts and he's in just the teens in foul line shots -- he is also good on the boards at six a game.

6-foot-1 Jared Quayle - the second leader scorer for the Aggies at 11.3 ppg, he shoots the most on the team and is at 42% overall, plus 43% from long range (half of his shots are three-pointers) -- what is surprising is that he's taken just 13 foul shots in 10 games.

The Cavalry

6-foot-8 Brady Jardine - the most athletic of the Aggies -- possessing a 43-inch vertical -- he's enjoying a strong second half streak in WAC play, thereby giving Morrill another frontcourter in the rotation.

6-10 Modou Niang - he is from Senegal but attended high school in Japan -- playing very little since Jardine upped his production.

6-foot-8 Matt Formisano - one of Bendall's fill-ins, he has placed less since WAC play commenced.

6-foot-1 Brian Green - He's more 5-foot-11 but a vocalizer/leader on the court and someone who will bury the open trey -- Green is shooting 67% (20-30) on three-pointers in WAC action.

The improvement of Jardine and Green has solidified the Aggie rotation and lessned the need for others to play too many minutes.

The Aggie Roster,by position

Preston Eaton 5-10/170 Guard FR
Brian Green 6-1/195 Guard JR
Preston Medlin 6-4/165 Guard FR
Jaxon Myaer 5-9/165 Guard SO
Tyler Newbold 6-4/210 Guard JR
Jared Quayle 6-1/180 Guard SR

Pooh Williams 6-3/200 Guard/Forward JR

Nate Bendall 6-9/245 Forward JR
Matt Formisano 6-8/240 Forward JR
Morgan Grim 6-8/220 Forward JR
Brady Jardine 6-7/220 Forward SO
Tai Wesley 6-7/240 Forward JR
Tyrone White 6-6/175 Forward FR

Modou Niang 6-10/220 Center SO

What To Expect

- The Spartans will emerge bruised at the very least post-game due to the number of screens Utah State runs defenders through.

- It's near impossible to get the Aggies out of the offensive rhythm and speed they wish to play at so it's paramount to contest as many shots as possible, minimizing open looks.

- Morrill's squad is shooting 50% in WAC action while holding opponents to 41%, plus 44% to 31% from three-point range while managing a +58 in overall rebounding numbers -- the Spartans need to make those numbers much closer.

- USU doesn't force a lot of turnovers -- the numbers are even in league play -- so such shouldn't be much of a factor on Saturday.

- Pooh Williams will more than likely be named the top defender in the WAC and he'll make Adrian Oliver work for shots/points -- who else will step up as point producers on Saturday for San Jose State?


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Kevin McCarthy is the Basketball Editor for Inside Sparta. You may contact Kevin with any questions, comments, or tips at kevin@insidesparta.com

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