LOGAN — Since the beginning of practices in the fall, the goal for the Utah State men's basketball team has been to win its fourth straight WAC title.
Thanks to a New Mexico State loss on Wednesday, the Blue Aggies will take the floor against Idaho tonight having accomplished that goal. Tonight's game also gives the Aggies a chance for some sweet revenge against Idaho, which handed Utah State its only league loss just a couple of weeks ago.
"It's going to be so fun, we are so excited for it," Aggie forward Brady Jardine said about playing the Vandals again. "It's going to be a long week of practice, but it will be worth it when we get to play Saturday and get a chance for some payback. We owe them something big."
The game in Moscow was a nightmare for the Aggies. In front of a national television audience on ESPN2, Utah State went terribly cold, shooting just 34 percent overall and a disastrous 18 percent from 3-point range. Even free throws were a struggle, as the Aggies shot just 54 percent from the charity stripe.
"We need to make open shots," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "Last game, Idaho 'Utah Stated' us. They ran a lot of stuff that we did when Coach (Don) Verlin was here. They mixed up their defenses, they applied a little full-court pressure. The one thing we don't do is they box-and-one'd us. I expect to see more of that this game."
Beyond what is happening on the court, there will be a whirlwind of emotions in the Spectrum as the Aggies will hold senior night to honor the six seniors on this year's squad. Morrill said he might have had a team with seven seniors in the past, but that six was definitely an unusual number.
"We have gotten used to senior night being about one, or two, or even three guys," Morrill said. "Six is a lot."
Not only will the Aggies be looking to win their last game in the Spectrum for the seniors, they will also be looking to go undefeated at home for the season. It would be the third such season in the last four years.
"We are going to try and have a good senior night, and defend the home court and all that," Morrill said. "We need to have our attention on Idaho. They are a good team."
Seniors Tai Wesley, Tyler Newbold, Pooh Williams and Matt Formisano have all been with the USU team since high school and have been a part of all four of the consecutive WAC regular-season titles. Junior college transfers Brian Green and Nate Bendall have been key contributors to the Aggies for the last two seasons. All of them leaving at once makes it a difficult time for Morrill.
"I've been lucky to coach them," Morrill said. "I can't remember six guys doing a better job. I've said it as long as I've been at Utah State, (senior night) needs to be a celebration not a funeral."
It also makes it hard for Morrill to keep the tradition of starting all of the seniors.
"I haven't decided what we'll do," Morrill said. "I know Jerry Tarkanian once started six seniors so they could all get on the court and took a technical. We aren't going to do that. Idaho is too good, we don't need to spot them any extra points."
Morrill also said this team was among his favorites that he has ever coached.
"I would be lying if I said I liked everyone," Morrill said. "That's coach speak when they say they love every team. There is a couple in my 25 years that I haven't liked. This one I have really liked."
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Utah State (25-3, 12-1 WAC) vs. Idaho (16-11, 8-6)
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Smith Spectrum, Logan
TV: CW30 Radio: 610 AM, 95.9 FM, 1320 AM