Utah State is on rare ground.
The Aggie basketball team, which has led the nation in field goal shooting in each of the past two seasons, is in a funk.
USU, through seven games, is averaging just 44.8 percent shooting and that — at least in part — has resulted in a start few expected from the Aggies. USU is now 4-3 and didn't have its third loss until Feb. 22 last year — perhaps not coincidentally coming to the same Saint Mary's team that snapped a 37-game home court win streak on Saturday.
"When your two leading scorers go 10 for 30," Morrill said after the Saint Mary's loss, "it's tough to win ... I thought when we got it tied (at 63-63 late in the game) 'Now we have a chance.' We just didn't get it done."
Utah State's post players, Nate Bendall and Tai Wesley, are doing their part. Bendall has moved into the spot vacated by WAC MVP Gary Wilkinson well, averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds while shooting better than 60 percent. Wesley, likewise, is shooting the ball well (51.4 percent) but the Aggie perimeter players are struggling.
With the exception of Pooh Williams and lightly used reserve Preston Medlin, the Aggies are not getting the production they expected on the wings.
Senior point guard Jared Quayle is connecting on just 39.2 percent of his shots (37 percent from 3-point range) while Tyler Newbold has struggled as well, making 39.5 percent of all shots and only 31 percent from 3-point range.
"We have got to get better," Morrill said. "If we are going to compete in the WAC, we need to get better."
While the Aggie offense might not be hitting on all cylinders, the defense couldn't be much better.
Utah State is limiting its opponents to just 37.1 percent shooting and has done an admirable job guarding the 3-point stripe — foes are making only 28 percent of those shots.
LOSING THE CLOSE ONES: Being able to handle pressure — the kind that comes in close contests — has been a hallmark of Morrill teams over the years.
This year, however, the Aggies are 0-3 in games decided by five or fewer points.
USU lost by one at Utah, by three at Northeastern and by five at home to Saint Mary's.
HOME, SWEET HOME: When Saint Mary's beat Utah State on Saturday by a score of 68-63, the loss snapped a number of streaks for the Aggies.
The 37-game home-court win streak was gone. But so, too, was a 41-game streak against non-conference foes and a 65-game streak against non-conference foes in the regular season.
Utah State had won 52 straight home games in the month of December.
Morrill is now 162-13 in games played at the Spectrum.
MORRILL SPEAKS: With the season four weeks old, Morrill has scheduled a series of luncheons with boosters. The first meeting was Monday in Salt Lake City where Morrill broke down the season so far to a group of boosters.
The Aggie coach will meet Tuesday in Logan with boosters in the Cache Valley. The luncheon starts at noon at the Copper Mill Restaurant.
Morrill will again meet with Logan boosters and fans on Dec. 21. He's scheduled to make another visit to the Wasatch Front for a luncheon on Jan. 25 and again on Feb. 22 at the Homestead Suites Hotel south of The Gateway.
ODDS AND ENDS: Utah State has outrebounded every opponent this season and holds a 37.7-31.4 rebounding edge this season. ... The crowd of 10,270 was the second sellout of the season and 28th since Morrill arrived at USU ... The Aggies are averaging 9,853 fans per home game, tops in the WAC.
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