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AGGIES SEEK `NEAR-PERFECT’ OUTING AGAINST VISITING BYU

SHARE AGGIES SEEK `NEAR-PERFECT’ OUTING AGAINST VISITING BYU

On this exact date 24 years ago, Utah State dedicated its new 10,270-seat Spectrum with a 95-89 basketball win over Ohio State.

Tonight at 7, the Aggies open their 1994-95 NCAA home season, the 25th in the Spectrum. But for them to start No. 25 like they did No. 1 will take what coach Larry Eustachy says would have to be "a near-perfect game for us to have any chance of pulling the upset."The reason? BYU's the opposition.

Ranked 23rd and 2-1 after a big showing at the Great Alaska Shootout (wins over Oklahoma State and Louisville, a close loss in the final to Minnesota), BYU is tall, talented and veteran.

"BYU is a top 10 team," Eustachy says. "Offensively, BYU is so far ahead of us it isn't funny." The Cougars are playing like February, not December.

BYU carries a 15-game win streak against Utah State, including seven straight in the Spectrum.

What's more, BYU senior forward Russell Larson (averages 15.3 points, 7.7 rebounds) makes his final appearance in the Spectrum, where his collegiate career began so spectacularly it surprised even Y. coach Roger Reid.

In November 1991 Larson - a freshman off a mission taking over at center as a guy named Bradley left on a mission - scored 21 points on 80 percent shooting, nabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots to lead an 82-66 win over the Kendall Youngblood-era Ags in the season opener for both teams.

Larson's a household name now, part of the Shootout all-tourney team with sophomore Robbie Reid, the Y. point guard scoring 16 a game. Reid and Shane Knight, a 6-foot-10 three-point shooter, were named most outstanding players in tourney games with Louisville (Reid) and Oklahoma State (Knight). Juniors Randy Reid and Kenneth Roberts complete Roger Reid's starting five.

USU, 1-1, is again undermanned with guard Jarobi Kemp suspended for not meeting Eustachy's academic standards, 7-0 Nate Wickizer still tender on a twisted ankle and point guard Covington Cormier battling strep throat.

The Ags are coming off an 81-68 loss at Boise State Saturday. They fouled too much and were passive offensively, leading to 22 turnovers. Sixteen were steals, many by BYU assistant coach Lynn Archibald's son, Damon).

They got help Tuesday when Novich Hunter began practicing with them, on loan from football coach Charlie Weatherbie "for a couple of days because we're really hurting from the numbers standpoint," says Eustachy. Hunter, 6-4, was a basketball walk-on last season who walked on to the football team last spring, became an offensive-line starter and got a football scholarship in September.

Reid is still wary. "I've always been a fan of Eric Franson," he says of USU's hard-working 6-7 center (15.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg). Reid notes Wickizer's height. "That gives everybody problems," he says. "Add in Silas Mills, whom (Ute assistant) Jeff Judkins calls an NBA prospect, and they have a good team."

He says instate games are pick-'ems because of emotion and bragging rights.