This season has been one of saying goodbye to longtime conference rivals for Utah State. In their last season as WAC members, the Aggies may have played their last game against Idaho and head coach Stew Morrill has said he made his final trip to Las Cruces, N.M., to play New Mexico State last month.
The only league team USU (16-5, 7-4 WAC) knows for sure it will see again next season is its opponent Friday night, San Jose State (9-13, 3-8). The Spartans will join the Aggies in making the jump to the Mountain West Conference starting next season.
“It’s one of those deals where it’s a wonderful thing for our university, our student-athletes and our athletic department, but on the other hand being careful what you wish for,” Morrill said. “We’re going into a league that is ranked in the top three or four in the country. It’s a heckuva basketball league.”
The Mountain West is the second-ranked conference in RPI this season, but Morrill and his squad are currently more worried about winning games in their final Western Athletic Conference season than what next year will look like.
After stumbling through a four-game losing streak, Utah State rebounded nicely last weekend, earning a road sweep over Seattle and Idaho. Going back on the road this week is far from ideal, but Morrill’s shorthanded squad has appreciated the single-game week. The team took Monday off to rest and has again gone with shortened practices this week to keep the remaining players fresh for game day.
“Obviously with our depth issues and the amount of minutes our guys are playing, trying to do everything you can to keep them fresh is very important,” Morrill said. “I told them that I’d never practiced shorter in my coaching career.”
The Spartans and Aggies met earlier this season in Logan with Utah State logging a physical 66-60 victory. For Utah State, it was the final complete game with Preston Medlin and Kyisean Reed on the court. For the Spartans it was the first of what has become a seven-game losing streak.
It is no coincidence the Spartan losing streak started when leading scorer James Kinney was suspended. Without Kinney the Spartan offense has struggled, but in his absence the team has continued to play great defense.
“It’s the best San Jose defensive team I have seen in many years,” Morrill said. “They’ve just been a little bit snakebitten in some close games and have had the couple suspensions that set them back a little bit. They are plenty capable of beating anybody on a given night.”
Utah State will need to win in San Jose State to keep from falling even further behind Denver and New Mexico State, who are currently tied for second place. The Aggies will get a shot at moving up in the standings next week with both schools visiting the Spectrum.
Aggies on the Air
Utah State (16-5, 7-4 WAC) at San Jose State (9-13, 3-8 WAC)
Friday, Feb. 8, 2013
8 p.m. MST
Event Center (5,000), San Jose, Calif.
RADIO: Aggie Radio Networks
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.