The preseason schedule was a rough one for a team with only nine scholarshipped players and some of them unable to play or practice at times, but Utah State came through it with a 3-5 mark. "Under the circumstances, better than expected," says coach Larry Eustachy, who awaits his Big West Conference debut tonight when the Aggies host a Pacific team that thinks it has the wherewithall to win the league.

Pacific is 6-5 as it visits the Smith Spectrum for the 7 p.m. conference lid-lifter. USU then hosts San Jose State on Wednesday.The Tigers come into Logan on a three-game losing streak, falling to Georgia and Washington in the USWEST Cellular Air Time Tournament last week in Seattle. "Pacific is coming off its worst game (12-point loss to the Huskies). That makes them more dangerous," Eustachy says.

"We're not nearly where Pacific is," says Eustachy, "and we shouldn't be." Pacific has a veteran team led by BWC scoring leader Michael Jackson (21 ppg) and returning regulars like Glenn Griffin and Charles Terrell and two freshmen that have Eustachy gushing. "Just awesome," he says of Adam Jacobsen and T.J. Walker, guards who combined for 48 points against UC Davis.

"After watching the films," says Eustachy, "I think Pacific is the most organized, best executing, best coached team I've coached against (in his four years as a head coach). Their record doesn't indicate how good they are."

Pacific coach Bob Thomason, whose club was third last year, seemed disappointed that the Tigers were picked third again on preseason polls. He indicated in the preseason that he wouldn't be surprised to have the championship team. The Tigers are leading the league in three-point shooting.

"If we win," says Eustachy, "it will be our best win to date. It's our most important game to date," he added, noting the Big West Conference start.

Junior center Nate Wickizer, the MVP of the Cowboy Classic in Casper, Wyo., last week, is nursing a painful sprained ankle that he re-injured two days ago. The Aggies need Wickizer in the lineup and shooting more, says Eustachy, since he's making 70 percent of his attempts. He scored 38 points in two games at the Cowboy Classic.