STOCKTON, Calif. — Lately, the road hasn't been good to the Utah State Aggies and it doesn't appear it's going to let up anytime soon.

Dating back to last year, the Aggies have lost their last two road games involving Big West Conference teams, and beginning tonight at 8 p.m. (MST) the Aggies play at league-leading Pacific (4-1 at home), where they haven't won since 2001, and at Northridge Saturday (3-1 at home).

In their last seven games on the road or at neutral sites the Aggies are 3-4. They lost to Northridge in the BWC tournament last year, fell to Central Florida in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks this year, at IP-Fort Wayne, and dropped their conference opener at Idaho Dec. 23.

The Aggies did mix in an 84-62 victory over BYU in Provo on Dec. 18 behind a career-high 26 points from Spencer Nelson.

"It's time for us to go on the road, but I'm not sure that I necessarily would have picked playing these two teams first conference road trip. We've got a tremendous challenge," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. " . . . We have a tough task ahead. But I think our guys are excited about the challenge."

Utah State went 8-1 on the road in regular-season conference play last year, and its only loss was at Pacific, 64-60.

"The difference sometimes is so small between years you win on the road and years you don't. And I'm not saying this is a year where we're not going to, I think that's a long way from being determined," Morrill said. "We're hoping we can have a really good road year."

The Tigers have won their last six games since losing to San Francisco, 67-64, at home on Dec. 18.

Since losing to Idaho, the Aggies, who are 8-0 at home, are on a four-game winning streak.

"I think that it will be a high-energy game, it better be on our behalf or we'll be in trouble," Morrill said. "You've got to play well, if you play mediocre you have no chance at Pacific."

The Tigers are led by junior forward Christian Maraker, who is averaging 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. David Doubley (12.5, 3.0) and Guillaume Yango (11.9, 7.3) also average double-figures.

"When you talk about a group of three or four guys, we haven't played against anybody with this kind of size and depth this year," Morrill said.

The Aggies counter inside with the trio of Nelson (15.1, 8.6), Nate Harris (14.2, 5.4) and the recent play of Cass Matheus (5.1, 1.8).

Freshman guard Jaycee Carroll (15.4) leads the team in scoring is shooting 51.4 percent from the 3-point line.

"We have to be a little more consistent than we were last weekend (against Santa Barbara and Cal Poly) to win on the road," Morrill said.

"I think we were very good in stretches, we just had a few stretches where we had some turnover lapses and some areas where we didn't defend as well. So we've got to minimize those stretches or shorten them down a little bit to have a chance to win on the road."

AGS NATIONALLY: As a team, Utah State leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.8 percent. North Carolina is second at 52.9 percent.

Also, the Aggies rank in the top 20 in three more categories: 12th in fewest fouls committed (14.6 per game); 15th in scoring defense (58.4 points per game) and 18th in fewest turnovers committed (12.6 per games).

Junior forward Nate Harris is second in the nation in field-goal percentage at 58.4 percent.

ALL-CENTURY TEAM: To celebrate Utah State's 100th college basketball season, it will name an all-century team.

Fans can vote for the team at www.utahstateaggies.com, at home games or at the Utah State ticket office.

Several members of the 15-member team will be announced at each home game beginning Jan. 20.

VERLIN VS. VERLIN: Twin brothers Don Verlin (Utah State) and Ron Verlin (Pacific) will coach against each other in tonight's game. Don has been with the Aggies for seven seasons, while Ron has been with the Tigers for 11 seasons.

Don holds a 9-4 lead over his brother.


Aggies on the air

Utah State (11-3, 2-1) at Pacific (10-2, 5-0)

Tonight, 8 p.m. (MST), Spanos Center

TV: None Radio: 610 AM (Logan), 98.3 FM (SLC), 1280 AM (SLC)


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com