TUCSON, Ariz. — In last year's NCAA Tournament against Texas A&M, Utah State's basketball team admittedly did not do all the little things required to win a game against a great team.
The Aggies were caught off guard by the physicality of Texas A&M. With that loss in mind, tonight against Kansas State, the Aggies are prepared to fight the battle on the inside and go to war for rebounds.
"They really hit the glass," Brockeith Pane said of the Wildcats. "They're top five in the country in offensive rebounding. They go to the glass every time with three or four guys. You can't scout that; that is something you have to see for yourself, and we'll go out there and do a good job at it."
The Aggies cannot match Kansas State's athleticism with their scout squad, but USU head coach Stew Morrill has a secret weapon.
"You know what we did with our scout squad is we told them that if they got an offensive rebound we'd buy them a milkshake," Morrill joked. "We don't have the athletes on our scout squad like K-State has, but we just tried for several days to emphasize how hard they were going to go to the boards. Normally you have three guys go to the offensive boards in preparation — we had five."
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: Five Utah State players (Matt Formisano, Brady Jardine, Tyler Newbold, Tai Wesley and Tyler Newbold) will tie a school record with their third NCAA Tournament appearance tonight when taking the floor against Kansas State.
Nate Harris is the only other Aggie to play in three NCAA Tournaments, appearing in 2003, '05 and '06. Formisano and Wesley were also redshirts on the 2005 team that lost to Arizona in Boise, Idaho.
TAI HIM UP: Wesley's ability to stay on the court will be a key for Utah State. Wesley fouled out in all three Aggie losses and averaged just 24 minutes in those games, down from his average of nearly 30 minutes a game. In the Aggies' NCAA Tournament appearance last season, Wesley played just 26 minutes against Texas A&M and fouled out late in the game.Comment on this story
DEJA VU FOR USU?: Utah State's last victory in the NCAA Tournament came as a No. 12 seed when the Aggies upset fifth-seeded Ohio State in Greensboro, N.C., in overtime on the opening day of the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
Overall, No. 12 seeds are 54-104 in the first round of the tournament since 1985. A 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed in all but three of the last 26 tournaments.
ORIGINAL TOURNEY TEAM: Utah State's first NCAA Tournament appearance came in the very first NCAA Tournament in 1939. The other teams in the original eight-team tournament were Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Villanova, Brown, Wake Forest and Ohio State. The Aggies went 1-1 in the tournament, losing to Oklahoma and defeating Texas.
HALF-COURT CONTEST: The Aggies ended their open practice with a half-court shooting contest they end every practice with. Redshirt Preston Medlin was the star of the show, going 2-for-2 from 47 feet out. Morgan Grim, Wesley and Newbold also hit from long range.