Their rally at Boise State Saturday fell just a bit short.
That sets an even better scene for Utah State's latest game-of-the-season Thursday night at the Smith Spectrum against New Mexico State. And it'll be another sleep-deprived crowd as tip-off isn't until 10:35 because the game is being televised by ESPN 2.Utah State, 20-7 overall (11-3, Big West) continues to ride a school-record 23-game home-win streak that is now No. 5 in the NCAA. A win earns Utah State the Big West Conference's Eastern Division championship outright and a No. 1 seed at next week's Big West Tournament at Reno.
USU is already assured at least a tie for first place in the division, though Nevada could still get the division's top seed if it wins its last two and USU loses Thursday night and Saturday. However, should Nevada lose to last-place North Texas in Reno Thursday night, USU will already be champ by the time it takes the court.
New Mexico State, 18-10 (8-6), which shares the same Aggie nickname, handed Utah State its first conference loss of the season on Jan. 31, 84-69 in Las Cruces, ending a USU Aggie win streak.
Under former Illini coach Lou Henson, NMSU carries a four-game win streak into this game.
Its schedule the last two weeks was the opposite of USU's. Henson's Aggies played four straight home games. Larry Eustachy's Aggies played four straight road games, and even though they were only 2-2, they maintained their two-game lead over Nevada (13-11, 9-5) for first in the East and finished the Big West road 5-3.
NMSU is 2-6, 1-5 in road games. Its only league road win was at North Texas Jan. 22. NMSU is 28-13 in ESPN games, but USU has won the last two nationally televised games between the Aggies.
In its other league late-nighter, Feb. 5 hosting Nevada at 10 p.m. on ESPN, USU was most impressive, winning 74-52 with a 17-2 run to open the game.
In addition to its 23-game home-win streak, USU has won 16 straight home Big West games dating to 1995. Should USU win, it would move into a tie for the NCAA's fourth-best current home streak (with Long Island University, a team USU beat 100-84 on Dec. 20 in Logan).
NMSU's Louis Richardson is one of the BWC's top players, averaging 17.8 points (sixth) and 7.3 rebounds (fourth) a game. He needs only 12 points to become the fourth NMSU player to ever hit 1,000 in a two-season career. He had 17 vs. USU Jan. 31. Point guard Donminic Ellison, the transfer from Washington State, was the one who gave USU problems a month ago, though, with 22 points. Forward Charles Gosa had 19 points, 11 rebounds.
For Utah State, former walk-on Neal Geddes scored his career high, 16, on 6-for-6 shooting in Las Cruces, but leaders Marcus Saxon , Kevin Rice and Justin Jones were considerably off their usual games. Those four, plus injured Dave Isaacson, will close out their USU careers Saturday vs. North Texas on Senior Night.