Utah State is coming off two home victories over teams with better records than the Aggies had, and this weekend they're meeting two teams against whom they've had a lot of success over the years.
But the Aggies have not won a road game since their very first night of Big West Conference play this season, Jan. 4 at Fresno. Since, they have lost at Santa Barbara, at Long Beach, at Fullerton, at Irvine and at New Mexico State.With Long Beach (7-6), Fullerton (6-7) and even Fresno (5-8) nipping at their heels, obviously the Ags need at least one more road win, if not two, with just five games left before the league tournament.
"We're really focusing on getting on the road and playing well. We want to get that monkey off our back," says USU coach Kohn Smith.
Utah State, 13-9 overall and 7-6 and tied for fourth with Long Beach in the Big West, is at Pacific tonight at 8:30 p.m. MST. The Tigers, whom the Aggies defeated 60-57 in the Spectrum on Jan. 25, are 8-13 and 4-8, with no league wins against a team currently over .500 in BW play.
The Aggies move on to last-place San Jose State (5-17, 1-11) Saturday.
USU has won 10 of its last 12 against Pacific and eight in a row over San Jose State.
Pacific presents problems for the Aggies, despite its record. "Certain teams in the league are more difficult to match up with," says Smith. "One of our problems with Pacific in the first game was the difficult time we had guarding (6-foot-4 forward) Randy Lavender. They spread the floor, and he penetrated and dribbled one-on-one from out on the perimeter," Smith says.
He's hoping mobile, aggressive 6-8 sophomore Rod Hay, the super sub of the last four games, will make it easier to defend Lavender.
Guards Dell Demps, with an 18.5-point scoring average, and Tony Amundsen, averaging 15.8 but with five straight 20-plus games, are the men who spread things out for Lavender.
While the Aggies have had trouble winning on the road, it's not because of shooting or scoring. They shoot 45.5 percent on the road, 44 percent overall. In free throws, they're 78.2 percent on the road, 67.5 at home. And they score 79.8 points on the road, 75.9 at home. And those figures don't include that 109-97 win over Oral Roberts at BYU, which is considered a neutral court. The Ags shot 50 percent that night from the floor, 79 percent on free throws.