Utah State basketball Coach Kohn Smith seemed delighted Tuesday. "A week with three games!" he said.
The Aggies had been off to a slow start, not just in their record but in number of games, too, playing two one-game weeks, a two-game week and then back to a one-game week. In all, they've played just six games, but thanks to Wednesday's 82-72 victory in Ogden, they've won their last two and are rarin' to go Friday and Saturday at the four-team Met Life Classic tournament hosted by University of San Francisco.The 2-4 Aggies open the tourney against 4-3 Air Force Friday at 7 p.m. MST, while 4-4 USF plays 4-2 Vermont in the 9 p.m. game. The consolation and championship games are Saturday at 7 and 9.
Utah State was the inaugural winner of the tournament in 1986. Its history against Air Force shows the Aggies up 8-2 and having won the last six meetings. Utah State, however, is 2-7 against the Dons, though they did beat them the last time they played, in that '86 Classic championship game. They've never played Vermont.
Utah State's only in-common opponent with any of the tournament teams is Boise State, to whom the Ags lost 89-77. San Francisco beat the Broncos 70-61 Tuesday.
Smith characterizes Friday's opener as "a good game between the Big West and Western Athletic Conference." The Aggies are 0-3 against the WAC so far, 0-2 vs. BYU and 0-1 vs. Utah.
He expects Air Force "to be disciplined and not make a lot of mistakes. They are a very good free-throw shooting team," he said. He's not sure whether the Falcons will be a patient offense, like Weber State, which works the clock, or uptempo, like the Aggies. That's what he'd prefer.
The Falcons return two starters in forward Chris Lowry (19.1 points, 8.0 rebounds a game average) and center Aaron Benson (12.5, 6.7) from a 12-20 team last year. Sophomore guard George Irvin is the other starter in double figures at 10.4 a game. They are 0-3 on the road against Kent State, Valparaiso and Missouri-Kansas City, losing by an average of 16 points. They won all four home games, beating Adams State by one, Regis College by five, Samford by 17 and Mesa State by 16.
The Dons have been a good-shooting team, averaging about 53 percent from the field, and are led by 6-foot-5 junior forward Tim Owens at 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds and 6-6 junior forward Darryl Johnson at 12.8 and 11.5. Vermont's Catamounts outscore opponents 78-70 with 6-2 senior guard Matt Johnson (19.2, 5.7) leading a lineup that has four players averaging in double figures. Center Kevin Roberson, 6-7, who averages 15 points and 12.5 rebounds, blocked 114 shots last year including 11 in one game.