LOGAN — At the halfway point of Mountain West play, Utah State’s young men’s basketball team might best be describe as up-and-down, with significant signs of improvement.
But with a 12-9 record, the Aggies’ main ups have come since a shocking road win over a Boise State squad that was projected to contend with New Mexico and San Diego State in the top of the league.
David Collette’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Utah State the win in Boise on Jan. 3 — and head coach Stew Morrill knows the Broncos will be looking to return the favor when the teams clash for the return trip to Logan on Tuesday at 7:35 p.m. at the Spectrum.
“Sometimes when you beat a team on the road, you better be smart enough to know that doesn’t mean you automatically win at home,” Morrill told reporters Monday. “Boise has been good on the road and went to New Mexico and won. We better understand what it is going to take.”
In other words, the Aggies shouldn’t take for granted a team against which it holds an 18-0 all-time mark in the Spectrum.
Sometimes when you beat a team on the road, you better be smart enough to know that doesn't mean you automatically win at home. Boise has been good on the road and went to New Mexico and won. We better understand what it is going to take.
–Utah State coach Stew Morrill
“For us to have a good second half (of the season), we are going to have to continue to be hungry,” Morrill said. “That is the biggest concern I have is trying to get better. We had a little step back the other night (in a 62-42 loss at San Diego State). Now we just need to try and step forward and get better.”
A big helping of "what it will take" to get better and stay unscathed at home against the Broncos (15-6) will include shutting down standout guard Derrick Marks. The senior has averaged 19.6 points per game, as well as 3.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Broncos — including a 31-point outing against the Aggies in the first meeting.
Utah State has experience with holding a team’s stars below their season average after keeping Wyoming’s Larry Nance Jr. to 14 points last week at home. Now, they’ll have to regain their commitment to team defense following a disappointing loss at San Diego State that included a season-low scoring output.
“We will need to have a lot of help, no matter who is on (Marks) individually,” Morrill said. “That will fall on our perimeter guys because he plays the two, he plays the one. Our guards are going to have him, but everybody needs to be aware that they play through him.
“He’s really, really good. I think he’s an NBA guard. That’s the way it looks to me out there. It needs to be a combination of different personnel and our whole team being aware of him.”
The Aggies, who were picked to finished 10th out of 11 teams in the Mountain West preseason media poll, sit at 5-4 in league play and one of only two teams in the conference to beat Wyoming.
As Morrill mentions it, his young team that returned only one starter from a year ago and will only graduate one eligible senior is getting better. Even the loss at San Diego’s Viejas Arena can’t be considered too much of a setback.
“We just need to keep proving to people that we are better than they thought we were and keep getting this young group better for the future,” Morrill said. “That is important to them, and hopefully we understand those things.”