Aggies' coach tempering expectations during invitational

Aggies' coach tempering expectations during invitational

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(AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)LOGAN -- The Utah State Aggies (7-4), fresh off of a victory against the Morehead State Eagles, gear up for another former Big West Conference foe in the Cal State Fullerton Titans (4-4) Tuesday at the Spectrum in day two of the Basketball Travelers Invitational.

Aggie Head Coach Stew Morrill issued a challenge to his players prior to the Invitational, especially the veterans, to step up and play through the adversity that the team has experienced this season, and Morrill was pleased with how his team responded in defeating Morehead State Monday, 79-72.

Junior forward Nate Bendall posted a career-high 18 points and five blocks against Morehead State. Forward Tai Wesley also scored 18 points and pulled down eight rebounds and Coach Morrill seems to be looking toward Wesley to be a leader.

The only thing really wrong with us is that everyone thinks we're going to win 30 games again. That ain't happenin'. We may as well just get that out on the table. That ain't happenin'.

–USU Head Coach Stew Morrill

"I think he's gotta step up and be a leader, that's very important, he's gotta lead with his actions on the floor," said Coach Morrill.

Has Wesley felt the mantle of leadership fall upon his shoulders this season?

"I think so; I have felt that," said Wesley, who sought the help of a friend and former player on how to be a better leader.

"I talked to Gary (Wilkinson) for a while today and just asked him questions: How he did it so well. We had a great conversation about leadership," said Wesley.

Coach Morrill has emphasized over and over the athletic ability of the teams participating in the Basketball Travelers Invitational. Morehead State's athleticism created some problems defensively for the Aggies and according to Morrill the Aggies expect much of the same from the Titans.

"They present some similar problems. They line you up and take you one-on-one a lot. Transition is a real concern; their point guard is so good in the open court," said Coach Morrill.

The Titan point guard that concerns Coach Morrill is sophomore Jacques Streeter who is averaging 11.8 points and 3.9 assists per game. Titan forwards Jer'Vaughn Johnson and Aaron Thompson are also averaging 11.4 and 11.3 points respectively.

The Titans lost to the Weber State Wildcats Monday in their first game of the Invitational, 82-71, their fourth loss in five games. Streeter led the Titans with a game-high 21 points and five assists; while senior guard Gerard Anderson dropped 14 points ; Johnson tallied 13 points.


"I think this was another example of a long layoff affecting us," said Titan's Head Coach Bob Burton of his team's loss Monday. "Part of it is my fault for bad scheduling. I really take the blame for that. The other part is on our players, just not stepping up and playing."

The Titans shot 43.1 percent from the floor but only 22 percent from 3-point range.

"And credit Weber State. They came in and played great defense. They took us out of what we wanted to do offensively," said Burton.

Wildcat junior forward Franklin Session was one assists shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. Sophomore guard Damian Lillard led the Wildcats with 20 points on the night and junior guard Lindsay Hughey chipped in 14 points.

"We got off to a good start and that carried us in the second half," said Weber State Head Coach Randy Rahe.

Coach Morrill has been very vocal about his displeasure with the Aggies' inconsistent performance thus far, and there has been talk about what is wrong with the Aggies. According to Morrill there is no need to get complicated.

"The only thing really wrong with us is that everyone thinks we're going to win 30 games again. That ain't happenin'. We may as well just get that out on the table. That ain't happenin'," said Morrill. "This team's just gotta try and get better and not worry about all the ‘what's wrong stuff' and all the expectations."

The Aggies will have a chance to "try and getter better" in their second game of the Basketball Travelers Invitational at the Spectrum Tuesday, Dec. 22 against the Titans. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

"We'll get a game plan ready to go and do the best we can," said Morrill. "That's all we can do."

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