RUSTON, La. When it comes to trips to New Mexico and Texas, Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill knows all about them.
Back in his old Western Athletic Conference days, Morrill and his teams made may a trip to the University of New Mexico and University of Texas-El Paso, and the results of each trip varied.
Many times the Lobos were ranked in the Top 25 and UTEP boasted legendary coach Don Haskins.
In the new WAC, there are still trips to New Mexico and Texas, but there is a slight detour Louisiana and with multiple traveling stops in Texas along the way.
The Aggies (14-5, 4-0) open the most grueling inland trip in the WAC when they visit Louisiana Tech and former Utah assistant and current La. Tech head coach Kerry Rupp, tonight at 6 and then it concludes at New Mexico State in Las Cruces on Saturday.
Tonight game can be seen on Altitude.
"It's more difficult travel-wise and it has proved to be about as difficult competition-wise," Morrill said of the trip to Tech and State, noting the Aggies were swept on this exact trip last season.
The trip began Wednesday morning following practice with a bus trip from Logan to Salt Lake. From there, the Aggies caught flight to Dallas and then bused to Louisiana. Following the game Thursday, the Aggies will bus from Ruston to Shreveport, catch a flight to Dallas, make a stop in Houston before landing in El Paso. They will then catch a bus to Las Cruces.
"You throw all that into the mix and you've got to be physically and mentally tough to deal with that," he said. "That's what I challenged (our team) with (Monday)."
The Aggies, who just concluded an eight-game homestand (a road game at Nevada was postponed due to weather Jan. 5), haven't played on the road since beating Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 8. In fact, the Aggies haven't lost since falling to Utah by 32 points in Salt Lake City Dec. 5.
"I think our basketball team is quite a bit better than the last time we were on the road, but that doesn't necessarily translate into W's," Morrill said. "We had some real close games at home and managed to win them all, but now we've got to take our act on the road and see what we can get done.
"I actually think the kids are looking forward to the challenge. I hope they are. I know I am and it starts at Louisiana Tech."
The Aggies lost back-to-back road conference games three times last year, and on this trip came the final two. The Bulldogs beat the Aggies 84-71 two days after New Mexico State beat the Aggies 76-73.
"Last year we didn't show (up) down there and I mentioned that to our team," Morrill said. "And the year before when we were fortunate to win, we played about as well as we could play."
The Bulldogs (3-13) are the only team without a league win (0-4).
"They've only had one home (league) game so their conference record in a little deceiving," Morrill said. "They haven't had many opportunities at home."Utah State leads the all-time series 4-1.
Aggies on the air
Utah St. (14-5, 4-0) at La. Tech (3-13, 0-4)
Today: Thomas Assembly Center
TV: Altitude, Radio: 610 AM, 95.9 FM (Logan),
E-mail: [email protected]