USU has 1 goal: win next game
Aggies look like Big West's team to beat entering conference play
LOGAN Utah State's basketball playbook isn't filled with goals of winning the Big West Conference championship or earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.
The one-page 'Goals' section is short, sweet and to the point.
"You open it up and it says 'win our next game' and then the goal section is over," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.
Postseason tournaments and honors all hinge on that one goal winning, and winning on the road so there is no need for any other goals.
The remaining sections in the thick Aggie playbook are dedicated to accomplishing that one goal of winning, by defending, shooting and rebounding the basketball.
So far, at 7-2, the Aggies have done quite well, but what happens in the future, beginning Thursday at Idaho in the Big West Conference opener, is all that matters now.
The Aggies are coming off an in-state sweep of Utah, Weber State and BYU, with an 84-62 victory over the Cougars last Saturday in Provo.
"When you're fortunate enough to get a win you're going to enjoy it and feel awfully good about it," Morrill said. "Maybe it's something we can build on when we start league on the road at Idaho."
The game with Idaho tips at 8 p.m. Thursday in Moscow.
"I'm always very concerned about our deficiencies are we going to be able to do this or are we going to be able to do that?" Morrill said.
The average observer would need a microscope to see those deficiencies, especially with the 7-2 record, which is the best among Big West Conference teams.
Winning on the road will be key for the Aggies to win the outright Big West regular-season title. Last year, the Aggies went 8-1 on the road in conference play and that one loss was to co-champion Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
Defensively, the Aggies rank 15th in scoring defense and first in the Big West at 56.9 ppg, while offensively, the Aggies are third in the nation and lead the Big West in field-goal percentage (52.7) and are ninth in fewest turnovers allowed.
The Aggies also led the Big West in scoring margin (plus-12.7), while they are third in field-goal percentage defense (41.6 percent).
Utah State struggles rebounding the basketball. The Aggies rank seventh in the conference in defensive rebounds (22.43 rpg) and eighth in offensive rebounds (8.56).
"I am a little concerned about rebounding," Morrill said. "Certainly we would like to have a little better margin than we have right now. We are on the plus side."
Utah State is plus-3.7 rebounds per game over its opponent.
Spencer Nelson leads the team in points (15.6), rebounds (8.7) and assists (5.0) and is fifth, second and second, respectively, in the conference in those categories.
Nate Harris is seventh in the nation and leads the conference in field-goal percentage at 66.7 percent and is 10th in the conference in scoring at 13.2 ppg.
Freshman guard Jaycee Carroll is third on the team in scoring (13.2).
Following their contest with Idaho Thursday, the Aggies will have a two-week break from conference play before they host Santa Barbara (Jan. 6) and Cal Poly (Jan. 8).
In the meantime, the Aggies will shoot for their 11th consecutive Gossner Foods Classic championship when they host South Carolina State on Dec. 29.Northern Arizona and Loyola-Marymount are the two other teams in the Classic.
Big West breakdown
Team Record Best win Worst loss Comment
Utah State 7-2 Utah IPFW The Aggies went 4-0 against in-state rivals
UC Irvine 4-2 Santa Clara USC The Anteaters lost to UCLA by 11
Pacific 4-2 Nevada San Francisco Lost at No. 2 Kansas by 9
CS Fullerton 3-2 Eastern Wash. Denver Also lost to Samford
UC Riverside 4-3 Loyola Mrymnt. N. Arizona Has losses to California and Arizona State
Cal Poly 2-4 Portland Santa Clara Started the year 0-4
Santa Barbara 2-4 San Diego St. San Francisco After win at SDSU, dropped four straight
Long Beach State1-6 Sacramento St. Portland Has lost three straight
CS Northridge 1-6 Jackson State Tenn. State Has two three-game losing streaks
Idaho 1-8 Great Falls Fort Lewis Has six losses by 10 points or less
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