After a promising start, Weber State has lost its last two basketball games and has perhaps lost center Anthony McGowan for some time. Utah State has lost all four of its games. It's not a bad team, says Coach Kohn Smith. It just needs some success.
Those are the stakes for Thursday's 7 p.m. nonconference game at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, to be televised by KXIV (Channel 14). Weber is 1-1 in in-state games; Utah State is 0-3.McGowan, the Wildcats' 6-foot-8 senior center who was All-Big Sky second-team last season, has a pinched nerve in the neck/shoulder area that could require surgery or up to six weeks' rest. Then again, he was still practicing with the team, and he's played two games in pain already.
If McGowan's out, Mike Pomeroy will take his place, adding two inches in height but a 0.0 scoring average.
Utah State's mission is to carve that first "W." Smith seems confident that would end the problem. "The guys want to win in the worst way and are really upset they haven't. We just need some success," Smith says.
"I would be much more disappointed," he adds, "if I thought we weren't playing real good teams. It's not like we've played bad basketball for four games. We have had three real tough road games."
The Aggies, said Smith, need to get together on the defensive end. "We've giving up too many points," he says. The Aggies have averaged 76.3 and given up 83.5 points a game.
The Wildcats are coming off an 11-day layoff that Coach Denny Huston says allowed them to get away from each other and concentrate on final exams. Now, he says, "We have to improve our execution on the offensive end and taking care of the ball. We have to get the ball to the right people at the right time."
The 'Cats have spent the past four or five practices on those execution problems.
In physical stature and skills of individuals, the teams are well matched. Both have hot-and-cold three-point shooters (Aggie Jay Goodman, Wildcat Tony Nicholas), veteran No. 3-position forwards (Weber's Aaron Bell, USU's Rich Jardine) who carry heavy scoring credentials and off-guards who can make their teams better (Weber's Nicholas, USU's Kendall Youngblood). Both have decent point guards in Goodman and Weber's Jason Joe.
And both have deep bench rotations (USU's Bryon Ruffner and Eric Franson at forward, Allen Gordon at guard; Weber's Al Hamilton and Jimmy DeGraffenried at forward and Robbie Johnson at guard).
But they play contrasting styles. Utah State loves to run and break, and Huston prefers a half-court set-up game that exploits defensive seams.
Thursday will be the 40th meeting between Weber and Utah State, with the Aggies holding a 21-18 advantage and wins in seven of the last eight times they've played. Weber's 7-13 in Logan and hasn't won there since 1985-86.