LOGAN — A Utah State team that is suddenly much better at rebounding hopes to rebound from its ugliest loss of the season Tuesday night on its home court.
The Aggies (5-4 in the Mountain West, 12-9 overall) host Boise State (5-3, 15-6) at the Spectrum at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, four days after being blasted at San Diego State, 62-42.
“It’s a quick turnaround for us,” USU coach Stew Morrill said on Monday. “It’s an interesting deal sometimes the way the league schedule falls. Boise hasn’t played in a week, and we’ve got the quick turnaround from San Diego State. “We are obviously coming off a tough performance, and we need to be ready to bounce back.”
Utah State was in a similar situation last week after suffering a tough overtime loss at UNLV in a Saturday night game on the road. But the Aggies bounced back in the friendly confines of the Spectrum three days later with a decisive 56-44 win over first-place Wyoming.
The Cowboys (7-2, 18-4) and Aztecs (7-2, 17-5) are now tied for first, halfway through the Mountain West Conference schedule. Colorado State (6-3, 19-3) and New Mexico (6-3, 14-7) are close behind, followed by Boise State in fifth place.
The Aggies, who play at New Mexico Saturday afternoon, head into this week’s games tied for sixth with Fresno State (5-4, 10-12).
“When you look at what we started the year with — with our lack of experience and all that — and being picked 10th in the league, you have to take some feeling of satisfaction,” Morrill said of USU’s current spot in the standings.
“Obviously you always want to compete as high as you can and try and compete at the top. But you can’t feel awful about being on the upside of the record, 5-4 in the first half of league. We have improved — taking the San Diego State game out — we have improved as we’ve went along and competed in pretty much every game. Certainly I like what has gone on with all of that.”
The Aggies’ most notable area of improvement is in rebounding. After being outboarded in 11 of its first 13 games, Utah State lost the battle of the boards by an average margin of 11 rebounds a night in its first five games in January. But in their last three games, the Aggies have outrebounded UNLV and Wyoming and battled the Aztecs to a draw in Saturday’s loss at San Diego State.
“For us to have a good second half, we are going to have to continue to be hungry,” Morrill said. “That is the biggest concern I have, is trying to get better. We had a little step back the other night. Now we just need to try and step forward and get better. There are certain areas in the game that I would like to improve, be it rebounding — although we have made some progress there — and in our free-throw shooting.”
The Aggies, who are shooting just 53.6 percent from the free-throw line in league games, made a season-low 29.2 percent of their shots against the Aztecs. But heading into Tuesday's game, Morrill is much more concerned about Boise State’s offense than his own.
“Boise is on a roll,” he said. “They are playing very well. They might be the best offensive team in the league. We better get ready and better know what we are in for.”
Utah State took the first game against the Broncos, pulling out a 62-61 victory in Boise on a last-second 3-pointer by forward David Collette. Led by senior guard Derrick Marks, who leads the MWC in scoring at 19.6 points per game, the Broncos have won five straight games. However, Boise State is 0-18 all time when facing the Aggies in Logan.
“Sometimes when you beat a team on the road, you better be smart enough to know that doesn’t mean you automatically win at home,” Morrill noted. “Boise has been good on the road and went to New Mexico and won. We better understand what it is going to take.”