Utah State basketball Coach Kohn Smith can usually find some cautionary thoughts about his team, but as the Aggies embark on a two-game road trip that could entrench them in the Big West's upper echelon, Smith finds, "Everyone's playing about at the top of their game."
And team per-game-average (17.61) scoring leader Jay Goodman will be back from two ankle sprains, hopefully wiser about shot selection (37 percent accuracy) after watching his teammates win the last three in a row without him, says Smith.He wasn't slated to start in Thursday night's game, but Smith expected to use him a lot off the bench.
Utah State looked for a fourth straight victory Fresno State's Selland Arena against a team that dropped two last week - at UNLV and at Fullerton. The Aggies follow with a game at Pacific Saturday night.
The Aggies beat both clubs easily in Logan earlier, but that was the week the Persian Gulf war started, the week of the campus bomb threat, so Smith's not sure whether those games were as telling as the Aggies' margins indicate.
"It'll be big," Smith said of the quest for win No. 4, which would give the Aggies their longest win streak in three years.
"Boy," he says, "if we could get two on the road, I think we'd (finish) third for sure."
The Big West is a home-win league, except for first- and second-place UNLV and New Mexico State. No one else has more than two road wins; the Aggies got their first last week at San Jose.
Utah State is alone in third place as the Big West weekend begins with a 7-5 league record, 10-11 overall. Pacific is 6-6, Fresno 5-6.
Aggie starters Thursday were expected to be Rich Jardine, Randy Funk, Eric Franson, Kendall Youngblood and Allen Gordon. Jardine had 18 points and seven rebounds at San Jose.
Funk has been on a tear since Goodman went out and has moved to second place in field-goal percentage (.605) in league play behind UNLV's Larry Johnson (.651). Goodman and Youngblood (17.57) rank 8-9 in BW scoring average for the whole season.
Fresno is led by 6-foot-5, 200 pound guard/forward Tod Bernard, who is averaging 20.4 points per contest, but Wilbert Hooker (6-3, 175 lb. junior guard) is a threat inside and out; he had a 25-for-27 streak going into last week's play. Bernard scored 21 and Hooker 13 against USU Jan. 19.
The Aggies expected Fresno to run on them Jan. 19, and the Bulldogs didn't, but Smith says they've been doing it again lately so he anticipates an uptempo game tonight.
"I'd like to see an up-and-down game," he says. "Of course, you want to be able to run on your end and keep them from running. That's a real key; we've got to get back."