LOGAN — If Utah State basketball has had one calling card under head coach Stew Morrill, it is efficiency. The Aggies have long been known for the huge three-ring binder playbooks and a methodical offensive attack that makes the most of each and every opportunity.
The 2012-13 edition of the Aggies are no exception to the rule. Even after sustaining a couple of rough shooting nights last week against Seattle and Idaho, USU is shooting just a shade under 50 percent from the field, 12th best in the nation.
That mark will be tested against San Jose State, one of the WAC’s best defensive units. In conference play, the Spartans have held opponents to just 38.3 percent shooting from the field, thanks in part to big man Alex Brown, who is averaging 2.5 blocks a contest.
“Having a shot-blocker is always positive,” Morrill said. “I think their players bought in and put more of an emphasis on the defensive end, and that’s a credit to their coaching staff and their team. Anytime you play a good defensive team, you’ve got to have a little more patience, not throw up bad looks, make sure you execute your stuff and try and get some things on the break, all of those things.”
Working in USU’s favor is nearly a week off since its last game. Utah State opened conference season with a run of four games in just eight days but has been idle since Saturday night, allowing the team to settle into a new semester of school and get their game-weary legs back. The team did not practice on Monday to take a break from the hectic conference schedule.
“We just felt like our legs and our minds needed a little rest with only one game,” Morrill said. “Anytime you come off a couple of days of not practicing, you have to get back in the flow. I thought we did that pretty well yesterday.”
If the shooting form improves with a little rest, then the Aggie offense should be something to watch for throughout conference play. The methodical pace the Aggies prefer can lead to low scores, but USU ranks tenth in the nation in scoring when adjusting for tempo. That number has only gone up in conference play thanks to a lack of turnovers. Even with an overtime period in their last game against Idaho, the Aggies had just six turnovers.
It’s no coincidence that the increase in ball control and decrease in turnovers has come as freshman Marcel Davis has started to play more at point guard. The American Fork graduate has been stellar since taking over the starting duties last month against Utah Valley, including a 14 point, five rebound, four assist and no turnover game in his last outing.
“He just has a really good feel,” Morrill said of Davis. “It’s hard for a freshman to start in any system, especially ours, and he just has a really good feel for the game and yet stays aggressive. He seems to get better every week.”
Aggies on the Air:
San Jose State (9-6, 3-1 WAC) at Utah State (13-1, 4-0 WAC)
Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 • 7 p.m. MST • Logan, UtahComment on this story
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Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.