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Aggies poised to run the conference table

LOGAN — Ride 'em, Aggies!

The Broncos are the final obstacle on Utah State's Pony Express run through the Big West Conference.

The 24-5, 15-0 Aggies expect to have a packed house in the Spectrum tonight at 7 as they attempt to run the nation's longest winning streak to a conference-sweeping 16 straight against a 12-14, 6-9 Boise State team that is getting desperate.

After their 62-59 Thursday loss at Nevada, the Broncos must knock off the Aggies or they will miss the Big West Tournament field next week — unless Idaho (12-15, 6-9) can win at Nevada (7-19, 5-10) later tonight.

"It would be great for us go undefeated," said the Aggies' Shawn Daniels, who is averaging 12.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. "They played us tough up there. We've just got to play defense. That's been the key, tough defense."

The Ags may be running roughshod through the league, but Daniels' statement is about as animated as this team can muster, despite its record success. USU can tie the school mark for wins with a 25th tonight, and it already has set a passel of records for win streaks and the like. It's one of three teams in the country with a chance to sweep its conference schedule.

But, like Tony Brown says, "It's a pretty calm group." There was no celebrating the 15th straight win Thursday night, though Brown allowed, "If we win Saturday, there might be a little celebration." He said the Aggies have a knack for simply starting over again in practice the day after a win. "We think about the next team that's coming in, what they do. We totally forget the last game," said Brown.

With his 25 points Thursday, Brown moved into a tie with Daniels for scoring leader at 12.3 a game, and he is now just .2 points away from being the Big West 3-point percentage shooting champion, .447-.445, with teammate Troy Rolle third at .413.

USU has beaten Boise State all three times since Stew Morrill became Aggie coach in 1998, and it has won five of the six meetings since the Broncos joined the Big West in 1996-97.

So naturally, Morrill worries even more, figuring the Broncos are really looking for payback now, and they have junior forward Kejuan Woods back in the lineup. He missed the first Aggie game during an 11-game suspension, but is averaging 12.3 points in Big West play. "They're going to come in here 4-3 on the road, so that's something right there that should grab our attention," Morrill says, surmising Woods' return has helped.

The Broncos have also corrected a turnover problem over the last eight games and are +.15 in takeaways per game. Their scoring defense ranks second in the league, right behind No. 1 USU, allowing 61.7 points a game to the Aggies' 61.1.

Morrill is a fan of Boise State's defense. "Last year they took offense before we went to Boise at how I described their defense. I really meant it as a compliment," he said. "(They) grab you, hold you, whatever you can get away with. Deny every pass. Physical ya. I think they do a great job," he said.

"We've got to just decide what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and we've got to be ready to play the same way. If (Thursday) is any indication, we will be, because I was real pleased with our intensity (against Idaho)."

The Ags will be the No. 1 seed from the Eastern Division at next week's Big West Tournament in Reno and will likely play the very first game, at 1 p.m. MST Thursday. If Nevada qualifies for the tourney, however, the bracket moves to evening play and the Ags would go on stage at 7.