Top 5 stories to watch at Utah State in 2014
Published: Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 23:01
Here are some of the most intriguing stories in Utah State sports this coming year.
Men’s Basketball in the Mountain West
The men’s team is 11-3 overall and just earned their first Mountain West victory last Saturday over San Jose State, lead by senior TeNale Roland’s career-high 20 points off the bench. All 20 of Roland’s points came in the second half, which contributed to the Aggies season-high 56-point half.
Senior guards Preston Medlin and Spencer Butterfield each scored double digits in the 19-point victory, as did sophomore forward Kyle Davis and freshman Jalen Moore.
Center Jarred Shaw has since rejoined the team after a five-game suspension for violating team rules. The Aggies won four of five without Shaw and will need to keep the wins coming in order to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
The Aggies have made six tournament appearances in the past decade. Their last tournament win was an overtime victory over fifth-seeded Ohio State back in 2001.
Marquette narrowly avoided falling to USU in 2009, beating the Aggies 58-57.
Women’s Basketball in the Mountain West
USU women’s basketball is also making their presence felt in their inaugural season in the Mountain West. At 2-0 in conference play and 8-5 overall, the Aggies average the No. 2 scoring offense in the conference, second only to San Jose State.
The high-powered offense is due in part to standout senior guard Jennifer Schlott, who’s already shown her ability to score in bunches this season, dropping 44 points against UC Santa Barbara in their own building.
The Aggies beat SJSU 78-65 last Saturday, holding the Spartans to 18 points fewer than their season average and bringing head coach Jerry Finkbeiner his 500th career win.
Three NCAA Regionals participants return to USU’s gymnastics squad in addition to 10 previous letterwinners and four new freshmen. Preseason polls rank the Aggies No. 5 in their first year in the Mountain Rim Gymnastics Championship.
New head coach Nadalie Walsh will take USU on the road first on Jan. 11 at Iowa then on Jan.17 at Southern Utah. The Aggies’ first home competition is Jan. 24 against BYU.
After a strong push last season in its first ever Mountain West soccer tournament, USU women’s soccer anticipates a breakout season later this year. The Aggies lost 3-2 in a tight match against top-seeded San Diego State in the semifinals last fall, ending hopes of an unlikely run at the title.
Head coach Heather Cairns expects a lot from her players, demonstrated by the team winning an award from the National Soccer Coaches of America for an overall team grade point average 3.29 — an award USU women’s soccer has now won 11 years in a row.
Expect to see Cairns’ team playing strong out of the gate next season.
The Return of Chuckie Keeton
It’s not too early to start thinking USU football. After finishing this season with a Poinsettia Bowl win and the No. 7 scoring defense in the nation, USU will welcome back quarterback Chuckie Keeton this fall in hopes of rising even higher on the national radar.
Keeton will take the lead of the Aggie offense following a solid season from backup quarterback Darell Garretson. It’s expected that Kyler Fackrell and the Aggie defense will still be a force to be reckoned with, though they’ll be without linebacker coach Kevin Clune, who took a job as defensive coordinator for Hawaii.
After being an early season Heisman candidate, Keeton suffered a knee injury in the opening quarter at home against BYU. The Aggies started junior Craig Harrison just one game before moving to true freshman Darell Garretson for the remainder of the season.