LOGAN – The Utah State basketball team’s second year in the Mountain West hasn’t gone as hoped. With a 3-8 conference record, the Aggies are tied for last place with San Jose State and Air Force and are on a five-game losing streak. To make matters worse, second-place New Mexico is coming to town Tuesday night, the same Lobo team that beat USU 77-59 in Albuquerque one month ago.
Despite this, head coach Tim Duryea said his players are still optimistic. That optimism may come from realizing that most losses have still been competitive. With the exception of two or three, Duryea’s team has been within striking distance of a win for most games, but every game also seems to include a rough stretch where poor play all but ruins the team’s chances. Duryea said his players understand that they need to “dig down and figure out what little extra can every guy do to dig out of it.”
“I think the reason they are still optimistic and still together is because you can look at almost every game, whether it is 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 32 minutes and we perform like a pretty good team,” Duryea said. “And then you go look at every single game, whether it’s four or six or eight or 10 minutes and see a stretch that is exactly the opposite of that, where we don’t play like a good team on either end of the floor, but I think the fact that they know they can play well for an extended period of time gives them hope and a little bit of confidence.”
He said getting that first win after a slump can be “contagious.”
“Once you start winning, I think that’s the same way (as losing). Everything goes a little bit better, every call is not quite so big and guys get a little more bounce in their step, but when you are going bad, you’ve got to figure out a way, whether it is change the lineup or just reach down and play a little better, you’ve got figure out how to get it turned.”
New Mexico brings a team to the Spectrum that knows how to score. The team has averaged 78 points per game on the season. Between the Aggies and the Lobos, five of the conference’s top 11 scorers will be on the same court Tuesday night. New Mexico has Elijah Brown, who scores 20.7 points per game, Tim Williams who scores 17.3 and Cullen Neal who averages 13.7. USU’s Jalen Moore scores 14.8 per game while Chris Smith averages 14.5.
“New Mexico is a very big and a very talented group offensively,” Duryea said. “They don’t have a lot of guys score, but everybody that plays can score and can hurt you, and the big three of Brown, Williams and Neal do a great job and are dangerous.”
Defensively, the Lobos have been holding their opponents to 72.4 points per game. Duryea said junior center Obij Aget, who leads the team with 32 blocks, has been shooting a good percentage of high-percentage shots while doing “a fantastic job on the other end as a defensive presence.”
The game, which will tipoff at 8 p.m., will be the second blackout game of the season.