LOGAN — On Saturday night, Utah State's basketball team proved it could play against anyone. The Aggies took the No. 5-ranked San Diego State Aztecs to the brink, leading with just a few minutes left and eventually forcing overtime before falling in the extra period.
“I think it shows that we can compete with any team in this league,” guard Spencer Butterfield said after the loss on Saturday night. “We’ve had a couple games not go our way, but I think those games are going to go our way if we keep battling and fighting hard.”
The Aggies are just 2-5 in conference play, but have had a chance to win in almost all of the losses. Aside from a 20-point blowout at UNLV, the Aggies have been within a possession or two of victory in every game.
“We have to keep fighting,” head coach Stew Morrill said. “We have to try and find a way to dare and win a game down the stretch. The last three games we haven’t found a way in league. It’s disappointing. We’ve competed for the most part. It’s a quick turnaround. We knew this was a tough stretch.”
Arguably the toughest stretch of the schedule ends Tuesday night with a visit from New Mexico (15-4, 6-1 Mountain West). The Lobos have won eight of their last nine, and in contrast to the Aggies have been able to pull out close victories, including a two-point win at Colorado State on Saturday and an overtime victory at Wyoming earlier in conference season.
Both teams have question marks at the forward position.
Utah State has played the last two games without power forward Kyle Davis, who will be questionable to suit up for the Aggies again on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, the Lobos won their last game without center Alex Kirk who, like Davis, is being described as "day to day" by New Mexico head coach Craig Neil. Kirk, who has a lower leg injury, is averaging 14 points and just less than nine rebounds on the season.
With or without Davis, Utah State will be looking to stop a rare three-game skid, and Butterfield thinks that the Aggies have the right attitude necessary to turn things around.
“We have two choices: We can lay down or keep fighting, and that’s the good thing about this team — we will keep fighting,” Butterfield said. “We are going to bounce back even though it was a tough loss.”
The game will be the second-straight late start for USU. The two teams will tip off at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter @DesNewsKraig.
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