We have to be a team that spreads the floor and shoots the ball really well from 3, and that’s got to be a continued emphasis. —Tim Duryea
LOGAN — While basketball fans in Italy were able to see the 2017-18 Utah State men’s team play in mid-August, Aggie fans on this side of the Atlantic had to wait two months to finally see Tim Duryea’s squad in action.
Utah State’s men’s and women’s basketball teams hosted Primetime Madness Thursday night at the Spectrum, giving their fans a little taste of what they can expect heading into the upcoming season.
In addition to both squads scrimmaging for 15 minutes each, there were also a variety of contests in which Aggie athletes and some USU students were given an opportunity to showcase their skills.
“It was a fun event, all night long,” USU women’s head coach Jerry Finkbeiner declared.
And no one seemed to have more fun than returning men’s players Alex Dargenton and Sam Merrill.
Dargenton, a senior forward, led all scorers and rebounders in the scrimmage with 14 points and five boards, while Merrill added 12 points to help lead the White squad to a 33-21 victory. The Bountiful High product connected on 5 of 6 field-goal attempts, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range, while also dishing out a scrimmage-best three assists.
“I thought Sam and Alex showed their experience, having played a lot last year,” Duryea stated. “Those guys understand their roles, understand the system, understand what they’re doing. And I thought they really did a good job.”
Brock Miller, a freshman guard out of Brighton High School, led the Blue team with eight points, including two 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Koby McEwen, last year’s Mountain West Freshman of the Year after averaging 14.9 points per game, connected on 1 of 3 field-goal attempts for four points, and finished with two rebounds and three turnovers.
While addressing the crowd at the Spectrum at the end of his team’s practice session, Duryea noted that the Aggies’ led the conference in 3-point shooting last season while attempting about 20 3-pointers per game — a number he said he hopes to increase to around 30 this season.
“We have to be a team that spreads the floor and shoots the ball really well from 3, and that’s got to be a continued emphasis,” Duryea said. “And so far, our emphasis in practice has been the pace with which we play. We’re going to try and shoot more shots than the other team every night. That will tell you a little bit our pace.”
The Aggies will play this season without their tallest player, 6-foot-11 center Norbert Janicek, who opted to have knee surgery after suffering an injury during the summer prior to Utah State 10-day, four-game trip to Italy in August. Utah State, which started fall practices on Sept. 29, will open the 2017-18 season on the road at Weber State on Nov. 10.
“We’re a little ahead of where we would normally be, obviously the 10 practices this summer really helped,” Duryea said. “More with our new guys. They have a better grasp of our system than they would have if this was Practice 5 or 6 or 7. This is really Practice 20, if you count the 10 in the summer. So, I think we’re a little bit ahead.”
At the end of the women’s scrimmage, which was won by the Blue team, 22-17, behind seven points each from junior guard Rachel Brewster and sophomore forward Hailey Bassett, Finkbeiner told the crowd that being the youngest team in the NCAA ranks last season, this year’s squad is slated to the be the fourth youngest.
“The biggest value of a night like this is to be out in front of a crowd and under the lights,” Finkbeiner said. “Our first half was really tight without a lot of scoring, but it opened up in the second half. It was a good night, and our girls were excited to be here.”
Led by Mountain West Freshman of the Year Eliza West, the Aggies went 9-9 in conference play and finished 17-15 overall in 2016-17. They will begin play this season on Nov. 10 at UC Irvine.