GAME DAY PREVIEW: Utah State @ Idaho

<strong>LOGAN— </strong>The last time Utah State played Idaho, the Aggies needed a Preston Medlin <a href=”” target=”_blank”>3-pointer at the buzzer</a> to send the game to overtime – a game USU eventually won. That game was the first of a four game losing streak for the Vandals, who welcome the Aggies to Moscow tonight.

Idaho has won two of its past three games, but has been inconsistent in doing so. The Vandals picked up a road win at UT Arlington – a team that beat USU in the Spectrum last week – only to return home and drop a game to WAC bottom-feeder Texas State. In its most recent game, the Vandals got back on the winning track, but struggled in a 74-70 win over UTSA at home.

“Idaho is probably as efficient an offensive team as we have in the WAC, they are shooting high-percentages, they have a lot of offensive weapons,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They have just been the victim of some close games that haven’t went their way, including our game. They are very capable and very impressive to watch.”

Preseason first-team player <a href=”;SPID=10365&amp;DB_LANG=C&amp;DB_OEM_ID=17100&amp;ATCLID=1523813&amp;Q_SEASON=2012″ target=”_blank”>Kyle Barone</a> leads Idaho in both scoring and rebounding as he is averaging a near double-double on the season with 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Stephen Madison (15.1 ppg) and Connor Hill (11.2 ppg) are also both averaging double figures for the Vandals.

“(Barone) is a guy that has been a starter since he was a freshman, every year he has gotten better. He is really hard to deal with down low, he is athletic and strong, he has a very good touch, he is averaging 12 boards in league,” Morrill said. “He is a first-team all-league guy without question. We have got to help some on him and we have got to do a good job when we don’t help.”

Traditionally, Barone has struggled against the Aggies, though he did have a double-double in the overtime loss in Logan, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. However, it was <a href=”;SPID=10365&amp;DB_LANG=C&amp;DB_OEM_ID=17100&amp;ATCLID=204983769&amp;Q_SEASON=2012″ target=”_blank”>Madison</a> and Hill that really gave USU fits in the first meeting this year. Madison scored 14 points, and seemed to knock down an important shot whenever the Vandals needed a lift. <a href=”;SPID=10365&amp;DB_LANG=C&amp;DB_OEM_ID=17100&amp;ATCLID=205247349&amp;Q_SEASON=2012″ target=”_blank”>Hill</a> was even more deadly, finishing with a team-high 18 points and knocking down 4-of-7 shots from beyond the arc.

For the Aggies, <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Spencer Butterfield</a>, <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Marcel Davis</a>, and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Jarred Shaw</a> all had solid games against Idaho, scoring in double figures. However, USU allowed the Vandals to shoot 48 percent in that game – something that cannot happen if the Aggies hope to end their current four-game losing skid. It is the longest losing streak under Morrill.

USU will also need to shoot much better if the Aggies hope to pick up a road win. During the four losses, Utah State is shooting a mere 37.5 percent – i<a href=”” target=”_blank”>ncluding the most recent 27 percent outing</a> against Louisiana Tech – after being near the top of the NCAA statistics earlier in the season.

“We have had a lot of guys miss open shots. We missed nine lay-ups in the LA Tech game – that will hurt your shooting percentage for sure. We missed a lot of easy opportunities and we also missed some open jumps shots,” Morrill said. So I think we are trying to find points from different areas than we did before we lost Preston (Medlin) and Kyisean (Reed) and guys that are not use to getting a lot of shots are getting more shots.

“Hopefully they will settle in and get comfortable with making some shots, but, we missed a lot of open shots and easy shots. It is not a question of overhauling or offense or anything like that, we just have to make good on the opportunities that are there.”

Thursday’s game could also signal the end of an era of sorts.

Morrill has been making trips to Moscow since his playing days at Gonzaga, and has spent years playing the Vandals as a coach at Montana and Utah State. With the Aggies moving into the Mountain West next season and Idaho moving back to the Big Sky, the teams may not see each other for some time. That’s just fine for Morrill, who strongly dislikes playing his former assistant coaches. Current Idaho coach Don Verlin was a long-time assistant with Morrill both at Colorado State and USU.

“Moscow is a wonderful place but I have probably been there enough,” Morrill said. Plus with Coach V being up there, this could be our last meeting if we don’t meet up in the conference tournament and I think both of us would like nothing more than for this to be our last time playing each other.”

Thursday’s game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. local tipoff. The game can be heard live on KVNU (610 AM/102.1 FM) and KLZX (95.9 FM), with the voice of the Aggies, Al Lewis. The game will also be televised by ESPN Regional TV, airing on Altitude 2 (DirecTV Ch. 682, Dish Network Ch. 450), as well as ESPN3 via <a href=”” target=”_blank”></a>.


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