LOGAN — The hits just keep coming for the Utah State University men's basketball team.
The Aggies are off to their worst start since the 2007-08 season, when they also stumbled out of the gate to a 3-4 record. That team rebounded from the ugly start to win its first of four consecutive WAC championships and ultimately finished with a 24-11 record after being bounced out in the first round of the NIT.
The Aggies will try and right their ship when they play Utah Valley (4-4) tonight at home in the Spectrum.
Utah State will need a little bit of luck and better production across the board if it wants to repeat that season and win a fifth straight WAC title. The Aggies will be without senior leader Brady Jardine for the game and quite possibly for the rest of the season.
USU head coach Stew Morrill reported that the foot injury Jardine suffered against Southern Utah was more serious than initially expected and will have him out for "an extended period." If Jardine does miss the entire season, the Aggies could petition for a medical redshirt to allow him to return next year, if the soon-to-graduate, dual finance and economics major decides to postpone any potential career choices to play another year at USU.
Aside from Jardine, the Aggies may also be without the services of fellow starting big man Morgan Grim. In last week's loss against Denver University, Grim rolled his ankle and was only able to play 11 minutes at Pacific on Saturday night.
"(Grim) is still out of it," said Morrill. "I would use the old 'questionable' tag on him this week."
Aside from the ankle injury, Grim is also battling the flu. If he is unable to play, the Aggies will be counting on freshmen Ben Clifford and Jordan Stone to help carry the load. Stone in particular brings the Aggies something they lack — a big, physical presence inside.
"Jordan is physical and has his head in the game," said Morrill. "He makes some freshman mistakes, but he provides us with a big physical presence. Most of our inside guys are pretty lean."
Stone signifies the bigger problem with the Aggies so far this season: inexperience. If Grim is unable to play, Utah State will only have senior Brockeith Pane, with one previous year of play at Utah State, and sophomore Preston Medlin, who saw little action in his freshman season before redshirting last year, who have Division I experience prior to this season.
With such little experience, this Aggie team is prone to mistakes unlike any recent USU edition. Utah State averages nearly 14 turnovers a game and has one of the nation's worst assist-to-turnover ratios at .649. By comparison, last year Utah State finished in the top 40 in the nation in assist-turnover ratio at 1.23.
"We have to make shots. It's hard to get an assist on a missed shot," Morrill said about improving the ratio. "Too often we don't make the extra pass and we are missing shots."1 comment on this story
The Aggies have struggled to score on the offensive end this year, and playing Utah Valley will not help their case. The Wolverines have held opponents to just under 40 percent shooting on the year, including 24.6 percent from beyond the arc, currently the 15th-best mark in the NCAA.
"Utah Valley always plays physical. They should feel like this is their chance to get us in our own building," said Morrill.
USU, UVU on the air
Utah Valley (4-4) at Utah State (3-4)
Tonight, 7 p.m.
Smith Spectrum, Logan
Radio: 97.5 FM, 610 AM