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USU aims to bounce back following rare home loss

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LOGAN — Utah State knows it's going to lose a game here and there, but the Aggies' goal is to not lose back-to-back.

They came back big last week after falling Thursday at Cal Poly to knock off UC Santa Barbara on Thursday.

The Aggies, 11-3, 3-2 and tied for third in the Big West Conference, face the same bounce-back situation tonight at the Smith Spectrum at 7 when a flagging-but-still-dangerous Long Beach State arrives.

"We're going to have to (bounce back). We focus on not losing two games in a row," said point guard Ronnie Ross, who had the kind of offensive game the Aggies have been expecting of him in Thursday's loss to league-leading Cal Irvine, scoring a career-high 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting with five assists.

"We're just going to have to think about this (Thursday) night and let it go tomorrow, and by the time we get to practice be ready for the next game," Ross said.

The 49ers face the same thing. They are 5-10, 1-3 and eighth in the 10-team league after giving former Utah State assistant coach Leonard Perry his first conference win now that he's at Idaho. The Vandals beat Long Beat 69-67, very close to the score of the Aggie game, 67-66 for Irvine. But Irvine is the defending champion and looked like it Thursday; Idaho is a bargain-basement 4-10, 1-4.

Both USU and Long Beach came from double-digit deficits, the Ags down by 10 and the Niners by 19. Tony Darden (17) and James "Rudy" Williams (15) led 49er scoring, Darden hitting five 3-pointers. In preseason polls taken shortly after senior forward Lemi Williams was lost for the season to injury, the 49ers were picked to finish fourth.

USU's 31-game home-win streak was dashed Thursday when it let Irvine's Tony Green run court-length for a winning 10-footer at the buzzer, but the Ags have still won 43 of their last 45 games in the Spectrum and is 50-4 there under coach Stew Morrill.

Desmond Penigar still leads Aggie scoring at 17.9 a game and rebounding at 6.6 after a night of 14 and nine Thursday.

Tonight's is USU's last home game until Jan. 31 when UC Santa Barbara visits. The Ags head to UC Riverside and Cal Fullerton next week and Idaho after that.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com