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Aggies hope to avoid late-game drama

Boise State has habit of playing in, but still losing, close games

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BOISE — Utah State coach Stew Morrill hasn't forgotten how lucky his team was when it pulled out a 75-69 victory over Boise State in the Aggies' fourth Western Athletic Conference game of the season in early January.

The Broncos had an attempt to tie the game in the final minute, but a 3-point shot by McNeal Thompson didn't connect.

At the time, the setback to the Aggies was the Broncos' fifth loss by 10 points or less in the young season, and since then Boise State has lost four more close ones, with three of those coming in a current three-game WAC losing streak.

"They could be right there with everybody else with three, four or five losses," Morrill said. "They've just been snake-bitten in a couple of close games that didn't go their way."

The Aggies, who have won their last two games over Idaho and Northwestern State, look to make it three in a row when they play at Boise State tonight at 7:30.

"It's going to be a challenge going to Boise," Morrill said. "I think Boise's record is very deceiving."

Morrill said nearly the same before the Aggies waxed Idaho, which posted a big home win over Fresno State the week before, and set an NCAA record with a 37-0 scoring run against the Vandals. At one point, the Aggies led by 50 points.

As mentioned, the Broncos have lost three straight conference games, but they enter the game following a "BracketBuster" victory over Cal State Northridge last Saturday.

Currently, the Aggies (18-6, 8-4) are in third place in the league, a half-game behind Louisiana Tech and a game-and-a-half behind No. 25 Nevada. The Aggies host Nevada on Saturday.

The Broncos (13-12, 5-8) are currently in seventh place in the league and are one game behind Fresno State, but the Bulldogs won't go to the conference tournament as part of a self-imposed penalty for NCAA violations prior to the arrival of first-year head coach Steve Cleveland.

Boise State is led by junior guard Coby Karl, who is averaging 17.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

"Karl is as good of a player as there is in this league," Morrill said. "He is an amazing 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 guard that kind of plays the point for them. He distributes the ball so well, and obviously scores it well. They surround him with lots of good shooters and their post guys are very active."

As a team, the Broncos are shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from the 3-point line. Karl, however, is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from the 3-point line. In his last five games, though, he is just 12 of 32 from behind the arc.

Guards Eric Lane and Matt Bauscher are averaging 11 and 9.1 points, respectively. In the first meeting between the two schools this year, Lane had just nine points and Bauscher was held to just three.

The Aggies had four players score in double figures, led by 20 points from Nate Harris and 14 from Jaycee Carroll. David Pak added nine points and Durrall Peterson chipped in with 10.

In the Aggies' 66-63 victory over Northwestern State last Saturday, Harris had one of the better games of his career with 27 points (19 in the second half) and he pulled down 12 rebounds.

FROM DOWNTOWN: For the second week, the Aggies are ranked second in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage at 43.1 percent.

AGS NATIONALLY: The Aggies also rank in the top 20 in four more categories: field-goal percentage (2nd, 51 percent); assists (2nd, 18.5 per games); fewest personal fouls committed per game (15.5) and scoring margin (20th, plus-10.4 points).

Individually, Carroll ranks sixth in 3-point field-goal percentage at 48.4 percent and 21st in three-point field goals made at 3.3 per game. Also, Pak is ranked 42nd in assists at 5.04 per game.

MORE ON HARRIS: Harris, who ranks fifth in the nation in field-goal percentage at 62.9 percent, is the only player in Utah State history to record at least 1,300 points, 600 rebounds, 200 assists and 80 blocks in a career.

On the air . . .

Utah State (18-6, 8-4) at Boise State (13-12, 5-8)

Tonight, 7:30 p.m.

Taco Bell Arena

TV: None

Radio: 610AM (Logan); 98.3FM, 1280AM (SLC)

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com