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BYU, Utah State basketball: Cougars, Aggies ready to tip off, answer questions

Published: Thursday, Nov. 10 2011 7:48 p.m. MST

LOGAN — BYU's basketball program isn't exactly easing into the post-Jimmer Fredette era.

The Cougars open the 2011-12 season tonight (7 p.m., MT, KCSG) with a visit to The Spectrum to face in-state rival Utah State.

BYU is sporting a different look, playing without consensus national player of the year Fredette, and without all-time steals leader Jackson Emery, who have graduated.

"This will be a much different season as far as the makeup of our team," said coach Dave Rose, who led the Cougars to a 32-5 record and a Sweet 16 appearance last season. "That's probably where we are right now, just trying to figure out the makeup of our group. We've had four or five guys who have played really well. Hopefully we can find a few more guys to play well."

"There's always a difference every year. I think we've adapted and adjusted," said senior Noah Hartsock. "We miss (Jimmer) and Jackson a lot, but we have a lot of players stepping up and playing well right now. It's good to see the scoring being pretty balanced."

Forward Brandon Davies, who was dismissed late last season for violating the honor code, has returned and will bolster BYU's veteran front line that also features Hartsock, Charles Abouo, Stephen Rogers and Chris Collinsworth. Junior Brock Zylstra takes over the point guard spot vacated by Fredette.

"The first game of every season, there's a lot of anticipation," Rose said. "As far as where our team is right now and where it's going to be a month from now, hopefully we get a lot better as we keep practicing and keep playing. But we're excited to get started."

Several newcomers are expected to make their respective debuts for BYU, including freshman guard Damarcus Harrison, and sophomore forward Josh Sharp, a transfer from Utah following a mission.

Aggie coach Stew Morrill, meanwhile, is in a similar position. He's replacing eight players from last year's team that posted a 30-4 record, including forward Tai Wesley, the 2011 Western Athletic Conference player of the year.

"Their personnel is different, but what they do and how they do it is very similar," Rose said. "Stew's been so successful, there's not a lot of reason to change. One thing about coach Morrill is, he's proven that his system is very successful."

"I know (Utah State) lost a lot of people. But Stew Morrill … isn't going to waste any time," Hartsock said. "He's going to bring a great team in. It's going to be a competitive atmosphere. It's going to be a really physical game. We're excited to go play it. They might be different, but we also lost some people, too. So it's going to be an interesting game."

Senior guard Brockeith Pane, picked as the preseason WAC player of the year, is expected to lead the Aggies, along with seniors Brady Jardine and Morgan Grim.

Hartsock knows all about the hostile atmosphere at The Spectrum.

"It's a tough place to play. It's a great environment. The student section is crazy and it's a good team," Hartsock said, adding that The Spectrum is the best road venue he's played in during his career. "I've never been in an environment where the fans were so in unison — their chants and everything they did. It can be very intimidating. It's something you need to be aware of, but you can't let it be a huge factor in the game."

USU has won 31 consecutive home games and Morrill has posted a 25-1 record at home against in-state opponents. That one loss came at the hands of BYU, in January, 2000.

"For us, we need to go in and execute, like any road game, try to get ourselves in a position where you can control the score," Rose said. "You get ahead, it's a lot easier. It takes a lot of energy if you get behind to try to make a run and then make another run. It's important to try to control the tempo of the game and consistently score points throughout the game."

NOTES: Last year in Provo, BYU pulled out a 78-72 victory over USU … The Cougars lead the all-time series with the Aggies, 136-91. Utah State owns a 59-51 edge in games played in Logan … Freshmen Jaren Sweeney and Austin Nelson are expected to redshirt this season, Rose said.

Cougars and Aggies

on the air

BYU (0-0) at Utah State (0-0)

Friday, 7 p.m. MT

The Spectrum, Logan

TV: KCSG Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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