We are doing a better job understanding how to practice." said Morrill. "We are taking baby steps and making progress.
LOGAN — It is the holiday season in Cache Valley and that means it's time for some annual traditions. The holiday lights in Preston, a nearly unbearable cold and smoggy inversion, Utah State students headed back home following finals and the Aggie basketball team rolling over the field in their annual holiday tournament.
The Aggies are 40-1 as tournament hosts with their last loss coming in 1971 against Wyoming in the Big Blue Classic. In the more recent iterations of the tournament the Aggies went 26-0 in 13 seasons of the two-day Gossner Foods Holiday Classic. In 2008 the field expanded to six teams playing a round robin format with three games in three nights to simulate conference tournament play and the Aggies have fairly easily cruised to a 9-0 record.
"There is not a lot of turnaround time, but it's always good to get multiple games in a post season format," head coach Stew Morrill said.
This year the Athletes in Action Classic sponsored by Gossner Foods may not be the cake walk the Aggies have been used to over the years. The field is perhaps the best ever for a tournament in the Spectrum featuring future WAC foe Texas-Arlington (4-4), an NCAA tournament team from last season in Saint Peter's (2-7) and a Kent State (7-1) team that has already racked up some impressive victories, including at West Virginia to begin the season (7-1).
"The tournament is as good a field as ever," said Morrill. "I'm very impressed with UT-A on tape. They probably feel like they should have beaten Tulsa in their last game and played Baylor very close only losing by 10 points. Kent State is a top 50 team and a borderline top 25 team and had a huge win at West Virginia earlier. Usually, you can say we are the favorite, but I'm not sure you can say that this year — even on our home court."
Utah State will face Texas-Arlington on Tuesday, Saint Peter's Wednesday and Kent State Thursday. All Aggie games start at approximately 8 PM with the other two playing an opening game at 5:30 each night.
Utah State (5-5) is still looking to find their groove this season. At Wichita State, the Aggies made an impressive comeback after trailing by 21 at halftime against the Shockers before falling just short 83-76. Back home on Saturday with most of Logan in Boise watching the football team in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl the Aggies quietly put together their best overall effort since defeating BYU in the first game of the season. Utah State cruised to a 78-53 victory over Seattle, holding the Redhawks to just 29 percent shooting while cruising to a 50 percent shooting night of their own. The recent upturn in results has a little bit of optimism seeping into the program after a mediocre start to the season.
"We are doing a better job understanding how to practice." said Morrill.
"We are taking baby steps and making progress."
Part of the progression of the team has come from Danny Berger. The sophomore has appeared in four games since coming off of the redshirt list on December 3 at Pacific. Berger has hit double figures in his last three games and is likely to be the next player to be inserted into the Aggies lineup. Morrill has used seven different starting lineups in 10 games as Utah State continues to search for consistent play from anywhere they can find it.
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