It is one step forward and another step back for Utah State basketball this season.
After finally breaking through on the road at Louisiana Tech last week, the hope for Stew Morrill's club was that the seal had been broken and things would get better on the road. Instead, the Aggies lost to Seattle on Thursday night 73-66 in a non-league game, the same Seattle team the Aggies had easily defeated 78-53 just over a month ago at home.
Now the road trip continues tonight with a visit to Idaho as the Aggies move back into conference play, still trying to put it all together. Point guard Brockeith Pane has played his best basketball since conference play started, averaging more than 17 points and four assists over the last five games.
But while Pane has stepped up his level of play, fellow senior Morgan Grim struggled over the last week. Grim is averaging just six points and 2.6 rebounds during the Aggies' last three games, while nursing a foot injury. In a microcosm of how everything has gone wrong for the Aggies this season, Grim injured his foot checking into the game, according to Morrill.
"The good news is that it is not a fracture but there is obviously something going on in there," Morrill said of Grim's injury. "Some kind of floating deal that has caused him problems and whatever, they are not quite sure what is causing it to swell up and all that stuff. He was actually walking to the scorer's table to check in when it happened, so that's pretty odd."
Playing Idaho always presents a special challenge for Utah State. Vandals coach Don Verlin spent 15 seasons on the sidelines as Morrill's assistant at Utah State and Colorado State and knows the Aggies' schemes better than most anyone. To make matters worse, Idaho's leading scorer, Deremy Geiger, spent his freshman year with Utah State during the 2008-2009 campaign before transferring to junior college and being brought back to Division I by Verlin last season.
"Going in there certainly is always a challenge, going to Moscow," Morrill said about Idaho. "They're solid. You watch them play and they're just really solid. They play good offense, they run good stuff, they're solid defensively and they've got quite a few good pieces for their system. Coach Verlin is doing a good job with them."
Last season the Vandals were the only team in the WAC able to trip up the Aggies, winning 64-56 in Moscow.
This year the Aggies are not seeking perfection in Idaho, they are just looking for a win.
"It's just a different kind of deal, the best way I can say it is the past few years we have been trying to win every game," Morrill said. "When you go 30-4 and still there is lots of criticism that tells you that people sometimes expect you to win every basketball game. We're not in that situation. We're trying to win single games and just put together some wins as best we can."
Aggies on the air
Utah State (10-9, 2-2)
at Idaho (9-9, 2-2)
Cowan Spectrum, Moscow, Idaho
Today, 9 p.m. MT
TV: None Radio: 97.5 FM