Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LOGAN — The grind of conference play continues for the Utah State Aggies on New Year's Eve when they take on San Jose State.
The Spartans are led by shooting guard Adrian Oliver, who is averaging nearly 25 points a contest. That scoring clip is good enough for the third-best in the nation.
Combined with Oliver in the backcourt is point guard Justin Graham, who is no slouch in the scoring department, either, averaging 15 points a game.
"They are awfully good," head coach Stew Morrill said about the Spartans' backcourt duo. "They've got some guys that go with them, but it's their show. They can really test your defense."
The Aggies' defense has been tested on the guard line several times already this season, having seen players like Jimmer Fredette, Damian Lillard, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman already.
None of those players can match up to the pure scoring ability of Oliver, the media's choice for WAC Preseason Player of the Year. Oliver has a good enough outside shot to keep teams honest, he's a 36 percent shooter from 3-point range, but he also can drive to the bucket with the best of them. When he does choose to drive, he is a threat with his pull-up jumper or getting to the rim and getting fouled. Oliver averages eight free throw attempts a game.
"He can do it all," USU's Pooh Williams said. "He's not one of those guys who can just shoot, and he's not one of those guys who can just drive. He can shoot, drive and post up. That's what makes him hard to guard."
"He understands how to play the game," teammate Tyler Newbold added. "A lot of people think he is kind of a selfish guy, but when you watch him on film, he is a really good passer."
Newbold will likely start on defense against Oliver, but Williams and the other Aggie guards will all likely see time guarding him to give Oliver different looks and to keep fresh legs defending him.
San Jose State lost its league opener 75-62 to Fresno State on Wednesday, but the Aggies are concerned about the Spartans' overall record of 8-4, which includes a win at Oregon.
"We start out at home, which is nice, but we start out with two of the better teams in the league record-wise," the Aggies' Tai Wesley said. "… (San Jose State) is not a walk in the park. No team in the WAC is."
Wesley is echoing the sentiments of his coach. All season, Morrill has been tempering expectations for his team.
"We have to grind out wins just like everybody else," Morrill said after Wednesday's victory against Hawaii. "That is the way it is going to be. We have to try and grind them out the best we can. We are not a dominant basketball team.
"We have a chance to be a good team, but we are not there yet. We are not dominant at all."
Aggies on the air
Utah State (12-2, 1-0 WAC) vs. San Jose State (8-4, 0-1)
Tonight, 7 p.m.
Smith Spectrum, Logan
TV: none Radio: 610 AM, 1320 AM, 95.9 FM
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