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Gaucho coach likes playing Ags in Logan

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LOGAN — UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams is the only coach in the Big West Conference who enjoys traveling to Logan, or at least that's what he says.

"Bob Williams always talks about how he likes the atmosphere (in Logan), how he thinks it's great for college basketball and how his team should enjoy playing here," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.

The Gauchos, who play the Aggies tonight at 7 p.m., haven't done any better in Logan than any other team in the league in recent years, but it's a ploy Williams uses to help his team play better.

"I honestly think sometimes you're better off doing that in a tough environment rather than talking about how hard of a place it is to play," Morrill said. "That's kind of the approach he takes and his teams seem to respond pretty well to that."

Santa Barbara (4-6, 2-1) hasn't won in Logan since beating the Aggies in overtime in 1999, but two of their previous four games have been decided by nine points or less.

After trailing by as many as five points in the second half last year, the Aggies went on a 13-0 run to take the lead for good and win what was their 16th consecutive game.

"They came in here and played really well last year," Morrill said. "It was a good ball game, and we had to make some plays down the stretch to win."

The Gauchos come into the game without two starters in Cecil Brown (stress fracture in leg) and Casey Cook (injured foot).

"The one thing I tell our guys is when we lost Spencer (Nelson) last year our guys rallied together, and we went on the road and won two," Morrill said.

"It's not a situation where you can say they're not as good because they lost Cook. Sometimes over the long haul that's definitely the case, but over the short-term the other players rally and the team will play pretty well."

Brown hasn't played all year, but Cook was the Gauchos' leading scorer (10.8 ppg) and second-best rebounder (5.5).

UCSB has talented shooters in Josh Davis (10 ppg), Chrismen Oliver (9.4), Cameron Goettsche (6.0) and Joe See (6.0).

"You always know what you're going to get with Santa Barbara," Morrill said. "They're going to play physical and they're going to play really good defense."

The Gauchos are coming off a 70-50 loss to Northridge. They committed 20 turnovers, and Cook was injured midway through the first half.

UCSB opened the year with a win over San Diego State but lost its next four. Since then, the Gauchos have won three of their last five.

The Aggies (9-3) are coming off wins over South Carolina State and Loyola-Marymount in capturing their 11th straight Gossner Foods Classic title last week.

Utah State, however, lost to Idaho, 69-62, in its conference opener two weeks ago.

"This is always an exciting time of year as you try and adjust things and prepare for league teams," Morrill said. "Hopefully our guys are excited to get back into league play, and I think they are."

Nelson, who has been bothered by a bad cough, leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points a game and 8.8 rebounds, while freshman Jaycee Carroll and Nate Harris are averaging 14.3 points each.

The Aggies will be without Marques Crane, who is in a boot nursing a bad foot, but Jason Williams, who was hampered by an early groin injury, is 100 percent and is playing much better.

AGGIE WOMEN: Utah State (5-5) has already won as many games as it did last season, but last year all the wins were in Big West Conference play.

The Aggies (0-1) are looking for their first conference win of the season tonight when they visit league-favorite Santa Barbara.

Utah State has won two of its last three games and suffered a one-point loss to Idaho in its conference opener last week.

Brittany Tressler leads the team in scoring at 13 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, while Ali Aird averages 11.4 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Taylor Richards (Hunter High School) has started all 10 games and is averaging 9.4 points and four assists a game.

The Aggies will close out their first conference road trip of the season at Cal Poly on Saturday night.

Both games can be heard live on 1390 AM (Logan). Both games tip at 8 p.m. (MST).

Aggies on the air

UC Santa Barbara (4-6, 2-1)

at Utah State (9-3, 0-1)

Tonight, 7 p.m.

TV: None

Radio: 610 AM (Logan) 98.3 FM (SLC)

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com