LOGAN — In Western Athletic Conference play thus far this season, no team has made the Utah State Aggies fight as hard for a victory as the Boise State Broncos did the last time they squared off.
The Aggies prevailed in Boise, 68-59, but the Broncos made sure it was never easy. Boise State employed a full-court trapping defense that flummoxed the Aggies at times. By the end of the night, the Aggies had turned the ball over 21 times, but came away with the victory based on great defense of their own, as they held the Broncos to just 32-percent shooting.
Utah State expects to see more of the same high-pressure, aggressive defense tonight when the Broncos come to town.
"Taking care of the ball goes a long way," USU coach Stew Morrill said about keys to beating Boise State. "It is hard to simulate their size and quickness in practice. Without question (the first game against Boise State) was our worst performance this year taking care of the ball. We dodged a bullet getting out of there with a win."
Much of the defensive pressure comes from La'Shard Anderson, the Broncos' ultra-quick point guard.
"He is really quick laterally and really fast end to end," Morrill said of Anderson. "He puts pressure on your defense when he is in the fast break and they really turn him loose on defense."
Anderson did not have a good shooting night when the teams met last month in Boise, but caused havoc on the defensive end, forcing six steals. Anderson gets free reign on defense, doubling the post, jumping passing lanes and gambling for steals, which creates a lot of chaos, but can also lead to easy baskets if his gambles do not pay off.
A win against Boise State would mean great things for the Aggies on the national level. Several teams ranked above the Aggies in the top 25 rankings have already lost this week. Utah State would likely vault into the top 20 should they win again. In the conference race, Utah State is now just two wins away from clinching at least a share of the WAC title for the fourth consecutive year — all of which is out of the minds of Morrill and his team.
"We don't talk about the stakes, we are just focusing on the team ahead of us," Morrill said. "Our lack of energy was a concern in the first half against Nevada. Obviously, we came out better in the second half. I'm just trying to keep the kids fresh mentally and physically. … A lot of teams fade in February, and we don't want to be one of them."
Not even the glut of national attention the Aggies received from ESPN on Thursday night registered with Morrill. Utah State appeared on Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, and Sports Nation with panelists discussing everything from USU super-fan Wild Bill's free throw distractions to wondering if the Spectrum has the best game day atmosphere in the country.
"I didn't know all that," Morrill said when asked about all the ESPN shows. "Someone told me we were on Pardon the Interruption, but that it was mostly about Wild Bill. All that attention is good stuff, but we don't talk about it much."
Aggies on the air
Utah State (21-2, 9-0 WAC) vs. Boise State (12-10, 5-5)
Today, 7 p.m.
Smith Spectrum, Logan
TV: CW 30
Radio: 610 AM, 1320 AM, 95.9 FM,