After defeating Weber State Thursday night, Ute Coach Lynn Archibald was obviously relieved and happy that his team was finally victorious after four straight losses. But he didn't celebrate for very long.
"I'm going to enjoy this for about 15 minutes and then start worrying about Utah State," he said. "We've got our hands full with them."The Utes and Aggies renew their long rivalry tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Huntsman Center where a crowd of 12,000 is expected. The Utes bring their disappointing 2-5 record into the game, while the Aggies are 1-1 in the young season.
The contest should offer a study in contrasts. The Aggies are a more wide-open team that likes to run and fire up the three-pointers at will (at least one player does). On the other hand, the Utes are a defense-oriented club that prefers a more controlled offense trying to work the ball into the inside players.
It will be the first Utah-Utah State battle for USU's Kohn Smith since he was named head coach.
"Utah will be very hungry," said Smith. "They're struggling, trying to find themselves right now. But they are a team with real good talent and experience. Mitch Smith presents a lot of problems for everybody."
While Mitch Smith leads the Ute attack (14.4 ppg and 8.6 rebounds), the Aggies are led by senior guard Reid Newey, who is averaging 26.5 points per game, including 11 of 25 three-pointers. One of the intriguing matchups will be at small forward where two brothers will likely be opposing one another. Scooter Grant is a 6-6 senior for the Aggies who sat out last year and most of the season before with a back injury. Josh Grant is his younger brother, who finished an LDS mission in August and enrolled at Utah. After four games he moved into Utah's starting lineup.
USU's Grant is a hard-nosed type of player who's not afraid to get inside and mix it up with the big boys. He's averaging 5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 19 minutes per game.
Utah's Grant is more of a finesse player who likes to play the wing, despite his 6-91/2 size. He's averaging 7.7 points per game and 4.3 rebounds in 18 minutes per game.
The Utes will also start Boo Singletary (8.6 ppg) at forward and Mark Lenoir (6.4 ppg) and Van Gray (9.0) on the guardline.
USU's other starters will be Greg Houskeeper at center, Danny Conway (12.5 ppg) at forward and freshman Kendall Youngblood (14.5) at guard.
Both coaches plan to go to several reserves and Utah would appear to have the advantage on game experience alone.
One of Utah's top reserves is Jimmy Madison, who started 29 games as a sophomore, 22 last year and the first four games this year. It looks like he'll stay a non-starter because the simple fact is, he's more effective off the bench.
After sitting out the entire Santa Clara game, Madison came back to score 13 points against Colorado and 12 against Weber State.
"As long as I get playing time, it's all right with me," he said of his reserve status. "I'm looking forward to playing Utah State. I hope this win (over Weber) will get us going."
The Utes and Aggies have split their series the past three years after the Ags ran off eight straight wins in the early 1980s.
After playing Saturday, the two teams will turn right around and play again Thursday night in Logan.