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Utah State faces Fresno on Saturday in mid-conference standing showdown

By Tavin Stucki

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 4:24 p.m. MST

Utah State forward Kyle Davis (23) drives to the basket during a game between the Aggies and Colorado State at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan on Wednesday, January 15, 2014.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State looks to reverse a two-game losing streak Saturday when it faces Fresno State at home.

"The first thing is to see where we're at mentally after getting rocked pretty good at San Diego State," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "What is expected of our guys, and they understand this, is they go out every night and compete. I think they will do that the rest of the way."

The Bulldogs are 13-14 this season and 6-8 in the Mountain West, but Morrill and his (15-11, 5-9) Aggies aren't overlooking anything about this weekend's matchup.

"Fresno State's going to come in with a lot of energy," Morrill said. "They're not as big as some of the teams in our league, but they make up for it a lot with their quickness and their athleticism."

Utah State has struggled against athletic teams recently, losing seven of its last 10 games to teams like SDSU, New Mexico and UNLV.

The Aggies have not won a conference game in which they shot less than 42 percent from the 3-point line.

"You can't have starters go for zero and nights where you have 2-14 and things like that," Morrill said. "There's a lot of missed shots in the equation and some of it's us missing wide-open shots and some of it's the defense."

Aggie center Jarred Shaw is expected to have a productive game from the paint. The Dallas native averages 14 points per game this season and has had a double-double in three of Utah State's last five games.

The Bulldogs have won five of their last eight games, and two of those losses came in overtime.

Senior Tyler Johnson averages 18 points per game in conference on 50 percent shooting for Fresno. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard dropped 24 on San Diego State's top-ranked defense earlier this year.

"Johnson is having as good a year as any guard in the league," Morrill said. "He's a Fresno kid. We tried like heck to get him — we were right there and he elected to stay home."

Morrill is still chasing his 600th career victory.

"I don't want to talk about that, we're just trying to get another win right now. It's been a couple games we've been trying to get another win," the coach said. "I think every game means a lot when wins are at a premium."

If Utah State loses the last four games of the regular season as well as the guaranteed MWC tournament game, the Aggies will finish below .500 for the first time in Morrill's time in Logan.

"Time is running out in terms of number of games left," Morrill said.

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

Tavin Stucki is a senior journalism student at Utah State University and editor-in-chief of The Utah Statesman, the Aggie campus newspaper. Twitter: @DesNewsAggies @StuckiAggies

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