Aggies look for a signature early-season win versus the 7-1 Cougars
You don’t want to know how long it’s been since USU won in Provo
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Utah State at No. 24 BYU: Game Preview, How to Watch, Livestream, Prediction
Who: No. 24 BYU (7-1) vs. Utah State (6-2)
When: Wed. Dec. 8, 7:00 p.m. MT
Where: Marriott Center, Provo, UT
Series Record: *This rivalry is more than a century old and it seems like no one can agree on this number* According to BYU’s game notes, the Cougars lead the all-time series 143-92. Utah State is on a 9-game losing streak to the Cougars dating back to Nov. 11, 2011. The Aggies haven’t won in Provo since Dec. 18, 2004.
The Story So Far
Head coach Ryan Odom is just eight games into his tenure at Utah State, and so far his squad has performed admirably in the wake of Craig Smith’s departure from the program. His Aggies are captained by senior forward Justin Bean, who’s averaging 22pts/12rbs on the young season and currently leads the nation with seven double-doubles.
Expectations for BYU’s 2021 season remain undefined following a loss to UVU in which star center Gavin Baxter suffered a torn ACL. The Cougars can still jam, but the size and rebounding advantage coach Mark Pope planned on wielding over opponents this year took a major hit. Once as high as no. 12 in the polls, the Cougars are now clinging to the no. 24 spot as they seek to redefine themselves and continue their season’s promising trajectory.
Keys to an Aggie Victory
1. Maximize Bean’s Effectiveness Under the Rim
BYU has played just one game since losing the centerpiece of their defense to injury — a narrow victory over Missouri State which saw the Cougars struggling to keep up on the boards. Baxter’s absence may prove especially significant when paired with Justin Bean’s uncanny gravitational pull on every rebound entering his orbit. The battle of the boards will play a major role in this one as BYU continues to refine its small-ball lineup.
In terms of offense, it shouldn’t be difficult to get Bean involved in a physical battle beneath the rim and score some good old-fashioned points in the paint. If Bean plays his game (which includes regularly getting to and shooting 87% from the foul line), the Aggies have a shot.
2. Don’t Let This Be That Dumb “BYU Hits Every Three” Game
I swear we’ve seen the Cougars do this to Utah State so many times in recent memory. This BYU team sucks from distance, shooting just 29.4% from beyond the arc this year. Everywhere else on the floor they tend to shoot well, so one would think letting BYU fire off threes would be an ideal game plan — having watched this rivalry closely for close to a decade now, I’m begging coach Odom to reconsider.
Despite BYU’s collective struggles from distance, senior guard Alex Barcello looks like a capable threat from anywhere on the floor. Dude dropped 15 in the second half of that Missouri State game and showed real flashes of both creativity and cold-blooded marksmanship deserving of the Aggies’ respect, even around the perimeter.
Spencer Johnson shouldn’t be slept on either — sure he’s averaging less than 10ppg, but he’s also 50% from the arc this season on 26 attempts. His strong play off the bench made all the difference in BYU’s last outing. Close. Out. On. Shooters.
3. Please Take Care of the Ball
The Aggies are doing a lot of things well early in this 2021 campaign, but averaging nearly 13 turnovers per game is less-than-optimal. This is a pretty natural result of a team learning to gel after losing some major pieces over the offseason, but against a talented team like BYU you can expect to pay dearly for every errant pass — particularly as the Cougars transition to smaller, quicker lineups on the prowl for transition buckets.
With Baxter out and the Cougars reeling from various other illnesses and injuries, these in-state rivals are a closer match than it might appear on paper. The Aggie offense boasts a significant advantage from distance and one of the country’s best rebounders attacking the glass in Bean — plus, they should be sufficiently pissed off after dropping a painful loss to St. Mary’s last Thursday. The betting line predicts a close one with BYU earning a narrow victory at home, but don’t be surprised if the Aggies finally steal one in Provo.
Final Score: Utah State 70, BYU 66