LOGAN — After 27 years as a collegiate head coach, you can probably imagine there are very few things Utah State's Stew Morrill doesn't like about basketball. Saturday night's Utah State-Idaho tilt includes one of the few things Morrill doesn't enjoy: coaching against a former assistant.
Idaho head coach Don Verlin spent 15 years with Morrill as an assistant, but could be making his final trip to the Spectrum where he used to sit on the bench and call plays for the Aggies. The shifting landscape of conference realignment has Utah State moving to the Mountain West next season and Idaho will play another year in the WAC but will then move to the Big Sky for hoops. This adjustment means the Vandals won't be on the Aggies' schedule next year, which is just fine with Morrill.
"I hope we never have to play them again," Morrill said about Idaho making their final trip to Logan for the foreseeable future. "I don't like playing my former assistants. I hate it. It's no fun."
The two friends will square off at least once more in Idaho on Jan. 31, with a conference tournament game a possibility as well.
The Aggies (12-1, 3-0 WAC) will bring an 11-game winning streak into the game, but the Vandals are no stranger to putting a stop to Utah State when they are on a roll. The last time USU had at least 10 consecutive victories was in 2011 when Idaho snapped a 17-game Aggie win streak on national television.
Big men Kyle Barone and Stephen Madison lead the Vandals (6-6, 2-0) in both scoring and rebounding while guards Connor Hill and Robert Harris Jr. spread the floor with their outside shooting.
"They have a premiere post guy in (Kyle) Barone," Morrill said. "There are very good shooters on the perimeter surrounding him, makes it hard to double him too much, because you're going to potentially leave a three-point shooter open."
The Aggies have home-court advantage, but will be at a disadvantage in terms of rest. Utah State is playing their fourth conference game of the season in just a little over a week, while Idaho is playing just their third game since December 20. Even with just a day of preparation time, Utah State should be ready for the Vandals thanks to the similarities between Verlin's and Morrill's styles.
"It's an Idaho team we're very familiar with as they have a lot of personnel they've had in the past. Their system is familiar to us," Morrill said earlier this week. "As I watched them play yesterday, I recognized a whole lot of things. Some of it is stuff we run now, some we ran when Don (Verlin) was with me for 15 years."
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Idaho (6-6, 2-0 WAC) at Utah State (12-1, 3-0 WAC)
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