<strong>LOGAN—</strong> After playing four games in eight days to start WAC play, the Utah State men’s basketball team had a bit of a rest this week. The Aggies take on San Jose State Friday night in their only game of the week, and their final stint of a three-game home stand.
The Spartans (9-6, 3-1) are a team USU has dominated since the Aggies joined the WAC at the beginning of the 2005-06 season. Since that time, the Aggies and Spartans have faced off 17 times (three times in the WAC tournament), and Utah State owns a 16-1 advantage. The last loss USU suffered at the hands of the Spartans came on Feb. 18, 2008.
Despite that success, USU head coach Stew Morrill isn’t expecting an easy game in the Spectrum.
“I think this is one of the best, if not the best, San Jose State team that I have seen in recent years, so they have multiple weapons,” Morrill said. “They are defending really well, holding people down to low percentages. They have a premier player, of course (James Kinney). Kinney is a very good scorer, very aggressive scorer. Anybody that is averaging 21.0 ppg is an awfully good player.”
Kinney is currently the top scorer in the conference, and is 14th in the country averaging 20.6 points per game. He is shooting 41.5 percent from the floor and 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. Kinney is also averaging nearly 2.5 steals per game to lead the Spartans.
“He’s an aggressive basketball player. He’s a playmaker for them. He’s going to look to score, he’s going to look to make plays for his teammates when you double him or take away his chances of scoring,” Morrill said. “What you’ve got to hope to do is keep his percentages down. Anytime a good player has an off night, he usually bounces back with a better night, and that’s going to be his mindset. We’ve got to try to keep his percentages down, so that’s going to be a challenge.”
Kinney is coming off a 3-of-18 shooting night, in which he only scored nine points in a win over New Orleans.
Unlike SJSU teams of the past, however, the Spartans have more than one player that can hurt you. Chris Cunningham is averaging a near double-double (10.7 points, 9.1 rebounds) at the power forward spot, and point guard D.J. Brown has exploded offensively as well. The Spartans also feature a difference maker at center in Alex Brown. Though Brown only averages about five points a game, his defensive presence in the post – he already has 38 blocks on the season – is a big reason San Jose State is one of the best defensive teams in the conference.
“Anytime you play a good defensive team, you’ve got to have a little more patience, not throw up bad looks, make sure you execute your stuff and try and get some things on the break, all of those things,” Morrill said. “It’s not an easy answer to why they’re good defensively … you’ve got to execute, and execution covers a big, wide range. Anytime you talk about execution, there’s a lot that goes into it.”
The Aggies (13-1, 4-0) meanwhile, have righted the ship after a home loss to Saint Mary’s in USU’s second game of the season. Utah State has reeled off 12 consecutive wins – including a thrilling overtime victory in its last outing against Idaho – which is tied for the sixth longest streak in the country. Friday’s game is scheduled to tipoff at 7 p.m., and will be televised locally on KMYU. Play-by-play will also be available on 610 AM, 102.1 FM, 95.9 FM, and online at 610kvnu.com.