LOGAN — There is no rest for the weary Utah State basketball team. Coming off a 20-point loss to rival New Mexico State, the Aggies (9-8, 1-2) continue their first WAC road trip with a visit to Louisiana Tech (8-9, 0-2) tonight at the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston.
It is just a week into WAC play, but Utah State has already reached a critical point of the season, having now lost two games in a row for the second time this season and just the 18th time in the last 13 years. If Utah State wants to keep hope alive for its fifth-straight conference title, the Aggies can ill-afford to suffer its first three-game losing streak since the 2007-2008 season.
Louisiana Tech is in its first year under new head coach Michael White, who took over for Kerry Rupp following last season. Not only do the Bulldogs have a new coach, but they are led by freshman guard Raheem Appleby, giving them an entirely new direction from recent Louisiana Tech teams.
Appleby has scored in double figures in his last seven contests, and he has played at least 30 minutes in all but two of the Bulldogs' last 11 games. Before that, the freshman had seen just eight minutes of court time in six games.
The new-look Bulldogs have Aggie coach Stew Morrill comparing them favorably to the other Bulldogs in the conference, Fresno State, who also are playing with a new intensity under a new head coach.
"It looks to me like they are playing really hard, very athletic and causing havoc with some pressure and some pressing and that kind of thing," Morrill said. "I compare them in a positive way to what I saw with Fresno State in that they're playing excited. They're playing hard and I am impressed with what I see."
Intensity is something the Aggies had for only 30 minutes in their last contest against New Mexico State. The all-Aggie battle was tied at 48 with less than 12 minutes left but Utah State fell apart down the stretch, eventually falling 80-60. The final score was just part of the problem for Utah State, as New Mexico State hammered them inside with their size — racking up 14 offensive rebounds and scoring 52 of their 80 points in the paint. In comparison, Utah State had just six offensive boards and 12 points in the paint.
"We quit playing. It was embarrassing. I can't remember the last time I was this embarrassed by a basketball team," Morrill said on his postgame radio show following the New Mexico State loss. "We shouldn't take university money if we are going to come on a trip and play this bad. That was a joke. I take full responsibility. We quit competing."
Aggies on the air
Utah State (9-8, 1-2)
at Louisiana Tech (8-9, 2-0)
Today, 7:30 p.m. MT
Thomas Assembly Center, Ruston, La.
TV: none Radio: 97.5 FM