The Battle of the Aggies
Riding a 13-game winning streak, the Utah State men’s basketball team will hit the road for a two-game swing against New Mexico State on Jan. 17 and Denver Jan. 19.
“Well, obviously this will be a very challenging road trip, two teams that are very impressive watching them on tape from last weekend,” said head coach Stew Morrill. “Both teams went on the road and swept against two teams that we had our hands full trying to beat. Obviously, Seattle and Idaho both gave us really good games, and New Mexico State and Denver went on the road and beat them both. They both looked impressive doing it. We are going to have to elevate our game a little bit to have a chance to compete with these teams. I really believe that.”
After scraping out a win against a San Jose State squad that was missing its leading scorer, New Mexico State has four players that average at least 9.9 points per game. Sophomore guard Daniel Mullings leads the way for the red-clad Aggies at 14.9 points per game, but has averaged 17.5 points per game during WAC play.
Senior forward Tyrone Watson adds 10.7 points per game, while senior Bandja Sy and freshman giant Sim Bhullar, who stands 7-foot-5 and weighs 360 pounds, each average 9.9 points.
New Mexico State sits at 10-8 overall but brings a 4-game winning streak into the matchup after dropping its first two conference games. The southern Aggies are ranked 2nd in the WAC in scoring offense — tied with Louisiana Tech — with 72.2 points per game in conference action, as well as in rebounding margin with a plus-3.3 advantage on the boards.
“Every time you go into New Mexico State, which is our first challenge, you know you are going to face a very athletic team, a very good rebounding team,” Morrill said. “Their guards are extremely impressive. Their big guy inside that is 7-foot-5 (Sim Bhullar) creates lots of issues trying to figure out how to deal with him. He is not just big. He has a real nice touch and obviously he takes up a ton of room. They have an experienced veteran in (Tyrone) Watson who plays the three and the four. As usual, they are a talented team.”
This could be the last time Utah State travels to Las Cruces to face NMSU, as the blue-clad Aggies will move on to the Mountain West Conference next season.
“It’s been a really good rivalry, and for a long time before I ever got here,” Morrill said.
Tipoff in the battle of the Aggies is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Aggies will have little time to rest with just one day off before facing Denver Saturday, Jan. 19 at 4:30 p.m.
Denver sits half-game out of first-place in the WAC with a 5-1 record, part of 9-7 overall. The Pioneers rank 1st in the WAC in scoring defense having held opponents to 51 points per game in conference play.
Three players average double digits in scoring for Denver, led by Royce O’Neal at 12.8 points per game, Chris Udofia at 12.1 points and Chase Hallam at 10.1 points per game. The Pioneers are riding a 5-game winning streak into Thursday’s game against San Jose State.
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