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Ags’ unselfishness delights their coach

SHARE Ags’ unselfishness delights their coach

Cardell Butler and Spencer Nelson have had great days. So have Mark Brown and Mike Ahmad. Nate Harris has even chipped in with a career day off the bench.

The versatility of his players is what Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill likes about his team.

"We have a group that doesn't really care who scores it," Morrill said. "They kind of care about getting a good shot and trying to run the particular look that you're running."

It seems to be a great combination. The Aggies have won eight straight games and are coming off a sweep of Santa Barbara and Cal Poly on the road last week.

The Aggies are 11-1 overall — which equals the school's best start in 75 years — and more importantly, 3-0 in league play heading into tonight's home contest with Pacific.

"The balance (of the league) and the competitiveness game in and game out, you better be ready to go every time or you're going to get beat," Morrill said. "And you better concentrate and do what you need to execution-wise, or you're in for some problems."

The Tigers (9-6) are 4-0 in Big West Conference play and have won their last five games. Their last loss was to then No. 10 St. Joseph's.

"Pacific is coming in undefeated in league and playing their best basketball of the year," Morrill said. "Obviously, they have a good system and excellent coaching and good players."

Christian Maraker paces the Tigers with 14.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while teammate Miah Davis chips in with 12.2 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.

"I thought he (Maraker) was an awfully good player a year ago, but he's without question one of the premier players in our league. But they've got a lot of different guys stepping up and playing well right now."

Butler leads the Aggies in scoring at 14.4 points a game, while Nelson, who was named the Big West Conference player of the week for his 15-point, 6-rebound performance at UCSB and 15-points, 13-rebound effort against Cal Poly, is averaging 12 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds.

HOT SHOTS: The Aggies have shot over 50 percent from the field in six straight games and eight of their last 12.

STINGY: Cal Poly went to the foul line only two times in the 69-63 loss to the Aggies last week. Earlier in the year, New Mexico State attempted just seven . . . Also, the Aggies are 96-7 over the last five years when they are leading at the half. They are 9-0 this year.

NATIONAL ATTENTION: The Aggies received two votes and are ranked 32rd in the nation in the latest AP Top 25 poll. They are tied for 37th in the USA Today Top 25 coaches' poll.

ON THE TUBE: KJZZ-TV announced Tuesday it will air Utah State's next two road games at Cal State Fullerton (Jan. 22, 8 p.m. MST) and UC-Riverside (Jan. 24).

The UCR game will air on tape-delay immediately following the Utah Jazz-Los Angeles Lakers game.

The Aggies will be on TV two other times: Feb. 7 when they host Santa Barbara (Fox Sports Net) and Feb. 28 at UC Irvine (ESPN2).

AGS ON THE RADIO: Utah State's game can be heard live at 610 AM (Logan) and 860 AM (SLC) with Al Lewis calling the action.

UTAH STATE WOMEN: Thanks to a career-high and Big West-high 31 points by Christina Zdenek in the Aggies' 76-73 win over Cal Poly last week, the Utah State women's team enters tonight's game with Pacific with a little momentum.

The Tigers are 5-8 overall and 4-0 in league play.<

In the win, Zdenek buried one of her seven 3-pointers as time expired to lead the Aggies to their first win of the year. Behind Zdenek, the Aggies hit a season-high eight treys.

Gillian d'Hondt leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding at 15.8 and 6.8 per game.

The Aggies (1-10, 1-2) will close out the road trip at Northridge (2-2, 3-9) on Saturday.

Zdenek and Ali Aird are the only two Aggies averaging in double figures at 12.1 and 11.9 points, respectively.

Ofa Tulikihihifo leads Northridge at 14.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

The games can be heard live on KLGN 1390 with Evan Nyman providing the play-by-play or by listening on the internet at www.utahstateaggies.com.

Big West matchup

Pacific (9-6, 4-0) at Utah State (11-1, 3-0)

Tonight, 7 p.m., Dee Glen Smith Spectrum

TV: None

Radio: 610 AM (Logan), 860 AM (SLC)

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com