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Utah State basketball: Aggies hope to break out of early-season funk against Utah Valley

Published: Sunday, Aug. 2 2015 3:18 a.m. MDT

Utah State Aggies guard TeNale Roland (20) shoots over Brigham Young Cougars guard Skyler Halford (23) during a game at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2013.  (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies guard TeNale Roland (20) shoots over Brigham Young Cougars guard Skyler Halford (23) during a game at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

LOGAN — At the end of finals week, the Utah State basketball team hopes to break out of an early-season funk.

After opening the season 5-0, the Aggies have lost two straight — to BYU 85-74 at EnergySolutions Arena and to Pacific 78-68 in the friendly confines of the Spectrum. USU will try and turn the tide around against Utah Valley on Saturday night.

While the Aggies have been struggling, the Wolverines are coming off an in-state victory over Weber State on Wednesday night. UVU features plenty of faces that are familiar to Utah State head coach Stew Morrill and the Aggies. UVU's Holton Hunsaker and Ben Aird have caused problems for the Aggies in the past, and transfer Mitch Bruneel spent the 2011-12 season with USU.

“Mitch is doing a good job. He’s active, very good rebounder; had five offensive rebounds the other night,” Morrill said. “Good shooter when he gets his feet set, plays hard — very, very solid, high-character guy. He’s doing a good job for them.”

Utah State Aggies center Jarred Shaw (5) goes for a dunk in the Brigham Young Cougars defense during a game at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2013.  (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah State Aggies center Jarred Shaw (5) goes for a dunk in the Brigham Young Cougars defense during a game at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday, November 30, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Utah State hopes to have Kyle Davis back Saturday, but the forward is still day to day, according to Morrill. Davis had an MRI on his injured knee this week that showed no structural damage. Davis has been limited in practice, but has progressed as the week has gone on.

“(Davis) just 'skeletoned' a couple of days ago, and no live action,” Morrill said. “Yesterday he was able to mix in and do a little more live action. ... He’s got a sore knee, a bone bruise, a little bit of a strain, but nothing structurally wrong which, knock on wood, was great news.”

If Davis is unable to suit up, Jalen Moore will once again get the start at forward. With or without Davis, the Aggies will be looking to turn the tide around in the in-state game. Utah State is 8-0 all time against Utah Valley, but in an era where in-state rivalries are slowly dying off Morrill believes that every in-state games has special meaning.

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) 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)

“Through the years we’ve played a lot of the in-state teams, tried to play all of them, and the in-state games, I’ve always thought, should take on special meaning to everybody involved and sometimes you hear people talk about it isn’t as big a game to us as it is to them, and I think that’s hogwash," Morrill said. "Especially when we’ve been in a little bit of a funk, but I think an in-state game is an in-state game and that should be just as big to either team.”

The Aggies had a slow basketball week, but were plenty busy off the court with final exams during the week. Next week will be much busier on the court as the Aggies host their annual holiday tournament, with games scheduled against Western Illinois, UC Santa Barbara and Troy.

Meanwhile, Utah Valley will return home to Orem to play games against Haskell, North Dakota State and Tennessee Tech before starting WAC play in January.

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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