<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The most heated in-state rivalry on the hardwood is set to make its annual debut Tuesday night in Provo when the Utah State Aggies hit the road to take on the BYU Cougars at the Marriot Center.
The battle between the Aggies and the Cougars has been fiercely territorial, with the home team dominating. Over the past 13 years, the visiting team has only been victorious just once. The Cougars were the last team from Utah not named Utah State to win in The Spectrum, having done so in 2000. USU, meanwhile, was the last team to score a road win in the series, defeating BYU at the Marriot Center in 2004. The Aggies hold a 7-5 advantage during that time period, including last season’s 69-62 win in Logan.
“It’s one of those in-state rivalry games that as a coach you’ve played a lot of them, but every one of them has a special meaning. It’s just the nature of the games,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “In the 15 years I’ve been at Utah State we’ve had an interesting series, with us winning in Provo one time and them winning in Logan one time. When you go to the other team’s home court, you’re a decided underdog.”
Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played on Dec. 5, 2012, but was postponed after USU junior forward Danny Berger collapsed during practice and had to be revived after his heart stopped. The season has taken some interesting turns for both teams since then, with the Aggies losing two more starters and the Cougars having an up and down season.
BYU currently sits at 19-8 (9-4) on the season, and has lost two of its last three games. The Cougars are coming off a home win over Portland, however, and are led by sophomore guard Tyler Haws (21 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and senior forward Brandon Davies (18 ppg, 7.7 rpg).
“They score a lot of points, and as usual, they have a lot of talent. They have a big guy inside (Davies) that in one sense, being from the same high school I went to (Provo HS), you’re glad to see him do well,” Morrill said. “We tried like heck to get Brandon. They’re getting him 25-30 touches a game. Tyler Haws is back off his mission, averaging 20 points. A lot of other players go with them, but it starts with those two.”
The Cougars are averaging more than 78 points a game, and are very good at distributing the basketball. BYU is currently eleventh in the nation in assists per game, averaging 16.5, while turning it over 12 times per game. Similar to the other WCC opponents (Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara) the Aggies have faced this season, the Cougars rely heavily on the perimeter game as they shoot 17 3-pointers a game, making 34 percent of them.
Utah State, meanwhile, has won four of its last five games – including three in a row on the road – and is coming off a home win over WAC rival New Mexico State. The Aggies led from start to finish in that game, riding big performances from center Jarred Shaw and guard Spencer Butterfield. In the past eight games since the losses of junior Preston Medlin and senior Kyisean Reed, Shaw has stepped up and is averaging 17.1 points and eight rebounds per game on 57.3 percent shooting. Butterfield has been equally impressive, averaging nearly 16 points and nine rebounds on 47.3 percent shooting.
“It’s an odd set of circumstance to step out of conference for a week at the tail-end of February but we need to have fun with it,” Morrill said. “We need to play hard and have fun with it and see if we can keep trying to get our basketball team better. One thing I told our guys is let’s keep trying to get better and see where we are at when the conference tournament rolls around.”
Tuesday’s game will tipoff at 7 p.m. and will be televised nationally on BYUtv. The game can also be heard locally on KVNU (610 AM/102.1 FM) and KLZX (95.9 FM) as the “Voice of the Aggie” Al Lewis will be on the play-by-play. A live audio stream will be available on the Internet as well, via 610kvnu.com.