LOGAN – After a week’s worth of rest the Utah State basketball team will finally take the court Saturday night at 7 p.m. when the Nevada Wolf Pack visits. Head coach Tim Duryea said the break was needed. His team, which has lost five of its last seven games, was “worn down.”
“We had been grinding and took a couple of days off,” he said. “We’ve had two good days of practice and hopefully we can come out with a lot of energy. We have another tough stretch coming again, starting with this game.”
This will be the first time Nevada’s Eric Musselman and Duryea will meet as head coaches. Both are in their first year as the head of their programs and both have led their teams to similar records so far. The Wolf Pack have a 12-8 overall, 4-4 conference record while the Aggies have are sitting at 11-8 and 3-5. Duryea said Nevada’s players are very athletic and Musselman has them playing to their strengths.
“They are very aggressive off the bounce and can drive you from all five spots on the floor,” Duryea said. “They do a good job with their spacing and you have to be able to guard off the bounce without fouling to be effective against them.”
The Aggies lead the league in ball security, but the Wolf Pack have the potential to cause trouble on defense. Nevada averages 5.3 blocks and 7.4 steals per game, both stats are second best in the conference.
“Their defensive field goal percentage is very good,” Duryea said. “They block a lot of shots and make a lot of athletic plays. The theme to Nevada is how athletic they are and how versatile they are.”
Many of the blocks can be credited to freshman forward Cameron Oliver, who replaced AJ West after his sudden departure from the program in December. Oliver has a team-high 51 blocks this season.
“AJ West was always a hard matchup for us. He was always such a good rebounder, especially offensively, but Cameron Oliver is a little more skilled version of AJ West,” Duryea said. “He gives them a lot of the same things, in terms of an active offensive rebounder and a guy that cleans up other people’s messes, but is more skilled than AJ West.”
Duryea made it clear that there is nothing Quinn Taylor, who has started for the Aggies recently, has done wrong, but that Elston Jones will start at the five instead.
“With (Taylor) coming off the bench we have a little more flexibility that he can sub at various positions,” Duryea said. “We are going to give Elston (Jones) some more, consistent minutes. He is a true five man and we need to see what consistent minutes will do with his development. They only way to find that out is to throw him out there and get him in a regular rotation at the start of the game.”