Utah State University basketball Coach Kohn Smith is 1-0.
Smith, who took over the reigns from retiring Coach Rod Tueller, began his collegiate head coaching career on a positive note with a 84-82 win over the Yugoslavian Red Stars Thursday evening at the Spectrum.Five thousand and sixty-six fans braved a winter storm to see the Aggies in action for the first time this season. They weren't disappointed, and neither was Smith. After all, his team hit close to 70 percent from the field (79 percent from three-point range); out-rebounded their opponents, despite a height disadvantage, almost two-to-one; and his senior star went on a shooting splurge, missing only one shot all evening.
Smith was happy but realistic about his first victory.
"I'v been in so many games it really doesn't feel different," he said of his first contest as head man. "We played a lot of people. If I was disappointed in any area of the game it would be passing. But that will happen if you don't have many games under your belt. We saw some good play, though."
Indeed. The Aggies looked to be the team most expect them to be this season - among the best in the Big West Conference. This squad, which finished 21-10 a year ago, returns four starters in Dan Conway, Reid Newey, Greg Houskeeper and Gilbert Pete.
Their opener showed brilliance, at times. It appeared that the Aggies would put the Yugoslavian team away quickly when they built an 11-point lead, 61-50, in the opening minutes of the second period. But that lead dwindled when Yugoslavian sharp-shooter Srojan Dabic went to work. He finished with a surprising 22 points, after averaging only four points in games against Utah and BYU.
The turnovers didn't help the Aggies, either.
USU threw the ball away a total of 26 times. In fact, if it hadn't been for the high number of miscues, the Aggies would have won by a larger margin.
"We'd get to a point where it looked as if we'd break the game open, and we'd turn the ball over. The idea was there but the pass wasn't," Smith explained.
If USU as a team wasn't perfect, the individual performance of Newey was as close as they come. The Roy High School graduate put on a show of his own, hitting 9 of 10 shots (7 of 8 from the three-point range) for a total of 29 points. His only missed shot came late in the final minutes.
"I got some good passes and some good screens. I guess I've got pretty good range and I worked hard over the summer on my shooting," the 6-foot-5 senior said.
Coach Smith took notice of the senior guard. Only one other Aggie, Houskeeper, scored in double figures. Houskeeper, a senior out of Woods Cross High School had 19 points.
"He (Newey) can really shoot the ball. Our offense is definitely loaded toward him, but the others need to become more of an offensive threat," Kohn said.
The Yugoslavian team ends its stint in Utah Saturday evening when it takes on Weber State College in the Dee Events Center.