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Aggies get rare shot on national TV

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No one needs to tell Utah State's Jaycee Carroll that the Aggies' BracketBuster game with Oral Roberts tonight in Tulsa is a big game — he has done his homework.

It's a big game — for good or bad — come NCAA tournament selection time, and it's a big game for the Western Athletic Conference.

"Around here people are starting to see and hear that the WAC is a pretty good conference and there are tough teams in the WAC," he said. "(Back on the) East Coast and people through the rest of he country need to see and recognize it and see what the WAC is all about."

Certainly, No. 11 Nevada and Nick Fazekas have put the WAC on the map as of late, and last week Carroll was named the National Player of the Week by Dick Vitale.

Tonight's 5 p.m. contest on ESPNU will be the nation's first look at Carroll and the Aggies this season.

Along with the national TV audience, plenty of other outside factors are weighing in on the game. It's the first nationally televised game at Oral Roberts in 31 seasons. It's ORU's final regular-season home game of the year; it's sold out; it's Ken Tutt bobblehead night; and an Aggie win would give them 20 victories for the eighth straight season.

"It's a big night and a big game for them, and if we don't understand that as a team we'll struggle," Carroll said.

The Aggies (19-7) are 2-0 all-time against the Eagles, and both wins came last season by a combined total of six points. In the season opener last season, the Aggies won 65-64 in OT and three weeks later the Aggies won 72-67.

"It's going to take some concentration and defensive effort," Carroll said. "We've been taking a few steps defensively, and we need to continue that. If we don't contain Caleb Green and Ken Tutt and let them have their way, it won't be a contest."

The Eagles (19-8) wrapped up a share of the Mid Continent Conference title Thursday night with a 85-80 win over Centenary. ORU's only loss in league game came in overtime to Valparaiso, 70-67.

After starting the year 6-7, the Eagles have won 13 of their last 14.

The feather in the Eagles cap came when they beat then No. 3 Kansas, 78-71, in Lawrence.

"Going to Oral Roberts is a tremendous challenge," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "Anytime you win at Kansas, that's all that needs to be said. They are dominating their league right now. We know how tough of a game that will be."

Green, who had 14 in each game against the Aggies last season, leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 19.9 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, while Tutt, a long-bomber who scored 29 and 23 against the Aggies, is averaging 16 points a game.

As a team, the Eagles are shooting 46.1 percent from the field (including 45.4 percent from the 3-point line)

Utah State has won four straight games after posting a 58-50 win over Hawaii Wednesday night. Defensively, the Aggies held the Warriors to 35.7 percent and outrebounded the bigger team 42-27.

The Aggies are shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 36 percent from the 3-point line.

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com