LOGAN — Nagging injuries to three key players have kept the Utah State Aggies from playing at full strength and developing a stronger bench in preparation for their Big West Conference opener this week at Idaho. Yet, the Aggies are still 7-2 and have the best record among conference teams.

"Certainly it would be nice to have all of our weapons, and they're not there yet," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.

Guard Chris Huber has been hobbled with an ankle injury and is still heavily taped. Marques Crane, a junior-college transfer, has an injured foot and has played sparingly the past few games. Jason Williams is slowly recovering from a groin injury.

"Marques (Crane) is still kind of gimpy and struggling," Morrill said. "(Huber) is not full strength at all. Jason (Williams) is starting to get back to himself."

All three could possibly be starters or play starters' minutes.

"I'm not saying one of those guys couldn't start," Morrill said. "I'm just saying with the guys that are starting now we could develop into having some pretty good depth."

Huber, a junior, started one game for the Aggies last year, but he came off the bench and played an average of 17.9 minutes and scored 3.9 points a game. He shot 36.8 percent from the field.

This year he is averaging just 14.9 minutes a game and is shooting just 33.3 percent from the field.

Morrill knows it's just a matter of time before Huber gets back in the swing of things.

Williams started 27 of 29 games last year and averaged 6.7 points a game. An early-season suspension and his injury set him back a bit, but he has played more and more the past three games. He scored a season-high nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in a 73-56 victory over Weber State but had just two points in the 22-point win over BYU last Saturday.

He is shooting just 30.8 percent from the field, including 20 percent from the 3-point line. He is averaging just 1.1 points per game.

Crane averaged 16.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists a game at Saddleback Junior College two years ago. He did not play in 2004 while finishing up some required course work.

He has made three starts, but he missed two games with injury, and since returning he scored four points in 10 minutes against Weber State and five points in 13 minutes against BYU.

Crane is shooting 53.3 percent from the field and is averaging 6.6 points per game.

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"If we can get all those guys to the point where they're healthy and confident we'll have a chance to have a pretty good bench and that would be encouraging," Morrill said.

The Aggies open Big West Conference play Thursday at 7 p.m. when they travel to the University of Idaho.


E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com