USU to battle Bulldogs for a spot in the MW title game
Tonight’s game sure to cause at least a handful of legitimate heart attacks heaven help us
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Aggies hope to have jitters, turnovers all out of their system
Utah State probably didn’t outplay the New Mexico Lobos Thursday night, but the never-say-die Aggies did manage to outlast them in what was surely the ugliest win of the season.
A sense of dread borne by the game’s missed opening layup and perpetuated by constant turnovers, miscues and mental errors made an objectively close game feel outside of Utah State’s control for the first 37 minutes.
While never quite dead to rights, Aggie fans had plenty to lament before the matchup’s late turnaround. New Mexico’s full-court press found Utah State completely unprepared and out of sorts, Vance Jackson appeared to access the same supersonic takeover mode he used to snuff out Wyoming and for a stretch to begin the second half, the Lobos threes began to fall. Just as the game (and hopes for an automatic tournament bid) began to slip away, Craig Smith and co. came to themselves.
The Mountain West’s team of destiny found a way, crushing New Mexico on the boards and getting just enough from the foul line to outpace the Lobos despite a so-terrible-it-must-be-true 24 turnovers. Merrill was huge. Justin Bean was huge. Diogo Brito, who turned in one of the ugliest first halves of the year, showed up in the second half and was huge. It was all at once a trainwreck and an inspiring, gutsy performance.
But geez, the Aggies need to settle down and play ball tonight or Deshon Taylor and the Fresno Bulldogs will surely shove them out of the nearest exit.
Keys to the game: Take care of the ball
Utah State’s two games against Fresno this year were nail-biters, with each team earning a 1-point win on the road to split the series 1-1. Combatting the Bulldogs’ athleticism and legitimate star in Deshon Taylor won’t be an easy task if second chance points and turnovers remain the norm.
The Aggies’ nightly effort on the glass will be wasted if they give Fresno extra possessions. Keep the number of turnovers in single digits this game and you’re looking at a USU squad ready to compete in the MW title game.
Merrill and Queta play their usual minutes
Simply put, these guys have to stay out of foul trouble. These teams are evenly matched — if the Aggies are down their two most impactful players for any extended period of time, Fresno will pounce.
R E L A X
The Aggies looked rattled last night. They’ve been a good road team most of the year, but silly mistakes mounted and some of the more inexperienced players on the roster (Porter and Brito in particular) struggled to get going early. Both came around and made key plays late in the game, but USU can’t afford to play scared. The Aggies aren’t locked in the Thomas and Mack with Fresno — Fresno is locked in with them, and there’s never a reason to fear when you’ve got the conference’s best player, best freshman and best devourer of dunks wearing Aggie blue.
Utah State 86