LOGAN — Less than a month ago it looked as if Stew Morrill's Utah State Aggies were headed in the wrong direction. The team started conference play with two close wins at home and admittedly played without their usual energy. It was bad enough that during the second game, an 80-71 win over San Jose State, Morrill threw a self-proclaimed "tantrum" during halftime.
"We got out of there with a win, but as you recall that was not a real happy weekend for me," Morrill said. "I will try not to do that again, that is not something I like to do very often. Sometimes your emotions get the best of you."
The Aggies have won all five games since that night, with no team coming closer than nine points. In the process, the Aggies broke into the top 25 in the coaches poll for the first time since 2009.
"It's always positive stuff," Morrill said of being ranked. "Everybody can do or say what they want on if we deserve to be ranked or not. ... I really don't get into that. I just think it is very positive publicity for our university and our basketball program, and our players need to feel good about putting themselves in a position to be ranked.
"With that being said, the nature of us being ranked has been if we lose we are no longer ranked," he continued. "So, enjoy it while it lasts, and try to make it last as long as you can."
For San Jose State, things have not been as cheery since that New Year's Eve matchup. The Spartans have only one conference victory, and are just getting back one of the nation's leading scorers in Adrian Oliver, who is returning from injury.
Oliver had just 10 points in his first game back against Hawaii on Saturday, but the Aggies are preparing for him to be at full strength.
"His stats don't reflect that he is the same as he was," Morrill said about Oliver's return. "Now, Oliver has had some game time after his injury. He is scary. Him and (Justin) Graham are scary by themselves. They can both go out and have huge nights if you don't guard them."
Graham does not just concern Morrill on offense, but his roaming defense also can be an issue for the Aggies.
"What he does is disrupt our offense, he pressures the ball coming into offense, then he doubles Tai (Wesley), or the post but mostly Tai," Morrill said. "He is 6-5-, 6-6, and long arms and just active as can be, and he gets a ton of steals. So, he is a one-man wrecking crew versus our offense and it is hard to simulate him in practice."
With the top-25 ranking and their WAC-record 21-straight conference victories, Morrill expects the bull's-eye on the Aggies' back to grow.
"If you think anybody is going to care that you are ranked, or that you are 18-2, won seven-straight league games (this season), or 21 in-a-row, nobody does," Morrill said. "It just makes everyone more motivated to beat you. We have just got to keep grinding away."
Aggies on the air
(25) Utah State (18-2, 7-0) at San Jose State (9-9, 1-6)
Today, 8 p.m.
TV: none Radio: 610 AM, 95.9 FM, 1320 AM