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Aggies stand in No. 25 New Mexico's way to top conference seed

By Tavin Stucki

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 1:13 a.m. MST

Utah State Aggies head coach Stew Morrill calls out a play during a game at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Utah State looks to down No. 25 New Mexico on Tuesday in what Aggie head coach Stew Morrill calls one of the best college basketball atmospheres.

"Obviously it’s a tough challenge," Morrill said. "The Pit is one of the great environments, probably one of the top 10 in college basketball. They’ve had great teams through the years and they have another great team right now."

New Mexico is currently second in the Mountain West with a 21-5, 12-2 record and competing with No. 13 San Diego State for the top seed in the conference tournament in March.

The Lobos are led by senior forward Cameron Bairstow, who averages 20 points a game. Senior guard Kendall Williams averages 17 points and five assists. Junior center Alex Kirk, who was injured and did not play in the game earlier this season, averages 14 points and eight rebounds per game.

"I don’t think it necessarily starts with one guy," Morrill said. "They are a legitimate top team. In my mind they’ve been a top-25 team for a while now. If they’re as good as or better than San Diego State, they both should be rated pretty dang high.”

Utah State is riding a three-game losing streak and has lost eight of its last 11, including a 13-point loss to the Lobos in January. In this, its first season in the MWC, the Aggies have two conference victories and are facing one of the two worst records (15-12 overall) in Morrill's tenure at Utah State.

“We’re at the point where we need to go have fun playing basketball, quit putting so much pressure on ourselves and let the chips fall where they may," Morrill said. "I think we’re pretty tight. We’ve worried a lot about the close games we’ve lost. The best thing to do is have a good attitude and try to have fun playing the game."

"That being said," he added, "you better play well against New Mexico to stay in the game."

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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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