After having a whole week off to ponder their 85-80 overtime loss in the Spectrum to league-leading UNLV, the Big West Conference's only unbeaten team, Utah State embarks tonight on a three-game road trip that will also take them to Irvine and New Mexico State.
Coach Kohn Smith says having the week to practice was helpful. "We've been able to work on a lot of things mentally," he says."This is the most important three games we can play all year long," he adds. That's because the first two teams the Aggies meet, 7-10, 3-5 Fullerton and 3-16, 0-10 Irvine, are teams they've already beaten at home, and a couple of road wins - the Aggies already have one - would set them up well in the race to make the Big West postseason tournament.
The Aggies have lost five straight at Titan Gym - Smith has never won there.
"Fullerton has actually been playing fairly well but not winning as often as they would like," Smith says, "and Irvine is getting a little better. Those are two games that are just must games for us and then a real tough one at (13-3, 5-2) New Mexico State (Monday, 10 p.m. on ESPN)."
USU beat Fullerton 89-72 behind a 22-point performance from Carlito DaSilva, who had a rude awakening when he tried to play UNLV's Melvin Love, who's a little bigger. DaSilva now must collect himself. DaSilva and Nate Wickizer will have to cope with Fullerton's Agee Ward, a 6-foot-5 forward who had 36 points and 15 rebounds in one game this season and who is fifth in league scoring at 17.9 a game and sixth in rebounding (7.6).
Guard Joe Small is the Titans' other main weapon, sixth in scoring (16.9).
None of the Fullerton starters played well in the Logan appearance, and coach John Sneed used his bench generously.
The Titans have been 3-2 since losing in Logan. "(Assistant coach) Reid Newey scouted their game at Pacific, and he came back saying (Aaron) Sunderland is playing well now, and he's a player we've got to take care of," says Smith about the Fullerton point guard.
Aggie forward/guard Kendall Youngblood is coming off a career-high 39 points against UNLV, but the Aggies' other scorers were silent, save DaSilva's 15. Jay Goodman and Malloy Nesmith scored little, and Goodman has shot well in only one of his last five games. "I don't think it's a slump," says Smith. "It's more shot selection and patience."