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Morrill's point: Penigar does more than score

LOGAN — Stew Morrill wasn't all that displeased that Desmond Penigar failed to score in double figures at home for just the second time in his career.

Though the senior managed just seven points and was 2-of-10 from the field in Utah State's 95-61 win over Long Beach State, Morrill liked some of the other things he saw.

"I think he was trying. He just missed some shots," Morrill said. "He was really encouraged for his teammates and I think that shows that he's made some strides in the maturity process since he's been here. He has matured and that is part of what this is supposed to be all about."

Before misfiring Saturday, Penigar was a model of consistency in the Spectrum. He averaged 18.9 points over 10 dates. On the road, however, Penigar's numbers fall to 13.2 points.

The forward gets a last chance to improve the latter this week when the Aggies visit Fullerton on Thursday and Riverside Saturday. The trip closes out USU's road schedule.

DETERMINATOR: Cardell Butler went 0-for-9 in Thursday's loss to Irvine and missed his first shot Saturday. Even so, the junior wasn't about to stop trying.

"I realized that I'm not going to make every shot," Butler said. "So, I just have to keep shooting it."

The perseverance paid off. Butler connected on all but one of the final seven shots he attempted against Long Beach State.

TOUGH JOB: After Saturday's win, Morrill told reporters about the craziness of coaching college basketball.

"You guys should do this for a living sometime. You'll find out it makes you half crazy. It makes you say things you don't want to say sometimes and do things you don't want to do," Morrill said. "It's just the competitive nature of it. We snap at this and we snap at that."

CONFERENCE CALL: If the Big West Conference tournament, slated for March 12-15 in Anaheim, began today, USU would be seeded third and face No. 6 Idaho in the quarterfinals. Other first-round match-ups include: (1) Santa Barbara vs. (8) Northridge; (2) Irvine vs. (7) Fullerton; and (4) Cal Poly vs. (5) Pacific.

Whoever ends up prevailing and earning the Big West's automatic NCAA tourney berth can expect little respect from the seeding committee. USU leads the league with an RPI of 92. Irvine is second at 115, while front-running UCSB is two spots back at 117.

FOOTBALL UPDATE: USU athletic director Rance Pugmire confirmed that Sun Belt Conference officials have approved switching next season's designated league game — a necessity because USU was unable to schedule Louisiana-Lafayette in 2003 — from a home date with Wyoming on Oct. 11 to a Romney Stadium meeting with Troy State on Nov. 15. The change allows the Aggies to finish the season with six consecutive conference games.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com