Aggies set to face LA Tech in Ruston
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:02
With the regular season winding down, the Utah State men’s basketball team hits the road for the final time for a pair of conference games on Thursday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 2.
“Obviously, this is a big challenge,” said USU head coach Stew Morrill. “Both of these teams beat us at home. Louisiana Tech is undefeated (in conference play) and nationally ranked. UT Arlington has had some really bright moments this year and are tied with us for fourth in the league.”
The No. 25 Bulldogs are 24-3 overall and are riding a 15-game winning streak. Sophomore guard Raheem Appleby averages a team-high 14.7 points per game but is the only player to average in double figures this season.
Louisiana Tech has six players who average between 5.0 and 8.6 points per game.
“They play three ‘five’ guys,” Morrill said. “They’re just running guys in and out constantly, and it’s hard to keep your match-ups. If you’re playing changing defenses like we are and it’s a couple possessions before you play man again, all of a sudden they’ve subbed in three or four guys and they’re on the break. You have to really keep talking just to keep your matchups. They play 11 guys, 11 minutes or more and that’s pretty impressive.”
The Aggies can run their streak of out-rebounding opponents to 11 straight when they travel to Ruston, but will face an athletic Bulldog team that ranks 21st nationally with 39.3 rebounds per game.
When the two teams met Jan. 26 in Logan, the Aggies out-rebounded the Bulldogs 50-31 but suffered a 51-48 loss after their second half rally fell short. Appleby hit what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with a little more than a minute remaining.
USU struggled late in the game against Louisiana Tech’s full-court press, something Morrill said will be key this time around.
“We were a little bit shaky. You can’t be timid or tentative. You have to attack the thing, use your dribble,” Morrill said. “A lot of times, the press-breaker is not Xs and Os, it’s personnel. It’s guys being able to make the right plays against the press. Our point guards are gaining confidence. I think they’ll be better against it than they were the other night and probably better than they were the last time we played them.”
The Bulldogs are ranked second in the WAC in steals with 8.8 per game, as well as scoring defense having held opponents to 60.6 points per game. They’re also tops in the WAC in scoring offense with 70.8 points per game.
Morrill said the Aggies will need a strong start being on the road.
“The reason we didn’t start very well against LA Tech at our place is because they’re good. They caught us off-guard,” Morrill said. “We were in the first weekend of trying to adjust to our limited roster. I think we’ve gotten better since then. We’re quite a bit better offensively, but they’re on their home court and they’re going to play better than they did here. It’s going to take an awfully good effort to keep ourselves in the ball game.”
Tipoff in Ruston, La. is scheduled for 6 p.m.