LOGAN Having lost its last three Western Athletic Conference games, Utah State could use a sure-thing victory.
And it would appear 4-21 Louisiana Tech is just the right team, at just the right time, that the Aggies need to get their ship back on course.
Not so fast.
The Bulldogs, using aggressive defensive pressure, forced the Aggies into a season-high 24 turnovers and cut Utah State's 20-point, first-half lead to one just before the half in the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 24 in Ruston, La. The Aggies eventually won, 71-61.
"We had a lot of trouble handling their pressure, and we had to shoot a high percentage to win at their place," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "We certainly know we're going to have to take better care of the ball to have a chance to win."
The Aggies (19-9, 8-4) shot 64.3 percent from the field, offsetting their two dozen turnovers. Eleven Aggies played in that game, and all 11 had at least one turnover. Point guards Desmond Stephens (5) and Kris Clark (4) combined for nine turnovers, while dishing out a combined six assists.
"The second time around in conference, you've played a team once and you go back and start with that game, and that's where my focus has been." Morrill said.
Tonight's game, which tips at 8, can be seen live on Altitude.
Along with breaking a three-game conference losing the streak, a win over the Bulldogs (1-11) would give the Aggies their ninth consecutive 20-win season, a 16-0 record at home with one more home game to play, and, most importantly, it would keep them in the WAC title race.
Utah State is currently tied with Nevada (17-10, 9-4) for third place. Boise State (10-3) and New Mexico State (9-3) are essentially tied for first.
Along with La. Tech, the Aggies still have Fresno State at home and Boise State and Idaho on the road.
Also tonight, New Mexico State is at Nevada, while Boise State plays at Fresno. On Saturday, La. Tech is at Nevada, New Mexico State is at Fresno State and Boise State is at Hawaii.
With an upset or two, the league race could get even closer.
La. Tech has lost three straight games, including back-to-back WAC contests. It beat Idaho 72-64 on Feb. 9, and before that win the Bulldogs hadn't won since beating McNeese State on Dec. 29.
"I'm sure they're not in any way, shape or form giving up on this season," Morrill said. "They're still playing hard. You see that on tape."The Bulldogs are led by Kyle Gibson, who is averaging 15.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
NOTEBOOK: Jaycee Carroll, who is leading the nation in 3-point field goal percentage at 51.4 percent, leads the Aggies and the WAC in scoring at 22 points per game while grabbing 6.2 rebounds per game, which is second-best on the team. Gary Wilkinson is averaging 13 points and 6.6 rebounds, while Tai Wesley is averaging 10 points and 4.1 rebounds. ... Utah State leads the all-time series, 5-1, and is 2-0 in games played in Logan.
Aggies on the air
Louisiana Tech (4-21, 1-11) at Utah State (19-9, 8-4)
Tonight, 8 p.m., Smith Spectrum)