Maybe it's not quite time to write the obituary on the 2013 Aggie basketball team.
Against Idaho on Thursday night, Utah State showed it isn't dead just yet. The Aggies never trailed in a 77-67 victory at Idaho, a team that USU narrowly defeated in overtime in Logan with stars Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed in the lineup. With game one of the road trip out of the way, the Aggies (15-5, 6-4 WAC) will be looking to climb back up in the road standings and earn a road sweep with a visit to Seattle (7-13, 2-8).
The two teams met in Logan last month, with USU taking a 75-66 decision over the Redhawks.
The improved level of play is certainly a positive for head coach Stew Morrill, but the Aggies are far from regainning their previous form. With just eight healthy bodies, the starters and seven primary rotation players are being relied upon to play heavy minutes. Against Idaho, Spencer Butterfield logged 36 minutes, Marcel Davis had 34 minutes and Jarred Shaw went 32. All those minutes have limited what Morrill can do in practice.
"Trying to keep our guys fresh with our limited numbers and trying to prepare for the games is a bit of a challenge because we don’t want to be in the practice court for very long and yet we don’t want to go into the games not prepared for what we are going to see," Morrill said.
Seattle is the type of team that USU would love to have extra time to prepare for. The Redhawks employ a very aggressive style of defense complete with some full court pressure, something that USU has struggled with at times this season. Davis, the freshman point guard from American Fork, will be relied upon to set up the offense and handle the increased ball pressure. Thursday night was one of Davis' best offensive outings, going for 16 points after scoring just 14 in the previous five games combined and giving the Aggies a crucial third scoring option behind Butterfield and Shaw.
While the rest of the Aggies are coming around to their new roles, Butterfield has quickly embraced the challenge of stepping up for Medlin. The junior college transfer has made his presence felt and not just with his offense. The 6-foot-3 Butterfield posted his third-straight double-digit rebounding mark on Thursday night and has led USU in rebounding five times this year.
"A little adversity hasn’t bothered him (Butterfield), he is going to keep plugging and try to do more," Morrill said. "You have got to be pleased with how he has responded to the situation."
The Aggies will get almost a full week to rest up after facing Seattle. Utah State next takes the court on Friday night at San Jose State.
Aggies on the Air:
Utah State Aggies (15-5, 6-4 WAC) @ Seattle Redhawks (7-13, 2-8 WAC)
Saturday, Feb. 2, 8 p.m. MST
Key Arena, Seattle
Radio: Aggie Sports Network
TV: Root Sports
Kraig Williams 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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