Under the guidance of head coach Stew Morrill, Utah State's basketball team has long been a pinnacle of offensive efficiency. The Aggies (14-5, 5-4) were no exception earlier this year, but after a rash of injuries the offense has started to sputter.
The overall numbers still look good: USU shoots almost 47 percent from the floor, ranking 30th in the nation, and the Aggies' grind-it-out, slow-tempo offense produces 1.081 points per trip, ranking 20th in the nation.
Since losing Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed four games ago, however, those numbers have dropped drastically. The Aggies have shot better than 40 percent just once in their last four outings and consequently have been below their average points per possession in each of those contests, including last Saturday against Louisiana Tech when the Aggies scored just 0.841 points per possession.
"I think we are trying to find points from different areas than we did before we lost Preston and Kyisean and guys that are not used to getting a lot of shots are getting more shots,” Morrill said. “Hopefully they will settle in and get comfortable with making some shots, but we missed a lot of open shots and easy shots.
"It is not a question of overhauling our offense or anything like that.We just have to make good on the opportunities that are there.”
Before their injuries, Reed and Medlin were accounting for more than a third of all USU's points. One player the Aggies are hoping continues to step up into that void is center Jarred Shaw. The Oklahoma State transfer was in a bit of a funk earlier this month, bottoming out against UT Arlington when he missed 10 of his 13 shots and grabbed just three rebounds. Against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Shaw bounced back in a big way, scoring a career-high 21 points and hauling in 14 rebounds.
"He (Shaw) got discouraged in our first game over the weekend and had a tough shooting night," Morrill said. "He responded very well to that. He didn’t get head down. He came back out next game and played hard."
The Aggies will need another big effort from Shaw — both on offense and defense — against Idaho All-WAC candidate Kyle Barone when USU faces the Vandals (8-11, 4-5) on Thursday night. In the Vandals' trip to Logan last month Barone showed well, scoring 13 points and adding 10 rebounds in USU's 82-75 overtime victory. Barone has only gotten better since then and is coming off a three-game stretch in which he averaged 22 points and nearly 17 rebounds a game.
"He is a guy that has been a starter since he was a freshman. Every year he has gotten better," Morrill said. "He is really hard to deal with down low.”
Aggies on the Air:
Utah State (14-5, 5-4 WAC) at Idaho (8-11, 4-5 WAC)
8 p.m. MST
Cowan Spectrum (6,000), Moscow, Idaho
TV: ESPN Regional TV/ ESPN3.com
Radio: Aggie Sports Network
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.
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