LOGAN – Its tournament time for the Utah State basketball team. After <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/article_eec0424c-e360-11e5-8275-a350818c0314.html” target=”_blank”>blowing an 18-point lead</a> and losing by a single point in the regular season finale Saturday against Fresno State, the Aggies finished with a 7-11 conference record and were given the No. 9 seed for the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas this week. A win against Fresno State would have meant a No. 6 seed in the tournament. Given the circumstances, head coach Tim Duryea called it the most disappointing regular season loss in his time at USU.
“We thought that was a game we could win, should win,” he said. “Just really, really disappointing to not get it done.”
Because of the loss, it appears the team now has a tougher road through the tournament. It means an opening round game against Wyoming, a team the Aggies suffered a 19-point loss to in Laramie earlier this year. If the Aggies can get past the Cowboys Wednesday, a top-seeded San Diego State team would be the next day’s matchup.
Going into Saturday’s game the Aggies had a two-game win streak and had won four of the last six, but according to Duryea, whatever momentum the team may have had was lost Saturday night.
“I think we have to kind of start over today and get ourselves right mentally,” he said Monday morning.
But Duryea said his team has done a good job of recovering from tough losses so far this year, and he understands that Fresno State is one of the top teams in the conference.
“If we weren’t playing well, you wouldn’t be in that situation against Fresno the way they are playing,” he said. “So I don’t want to lose sight, and I don’t want our players to lose sight that we lost by one point, but we’re still playing as well as we’ve played all season long.”
When USU tips off Wednesday against Wyoming it will meet with Mountain West player of the year Josh Adams, who hit five of his team’s 20 3-pointers when the two teams met February 6th. The 20 3-point makes set a new school record for Wyoming. Duryea said coaching was responsible for allowing two of the 3-point shots, but many of the made shots were due to a lack of defensive effort from his players.
“Ten of those 18 we had guarded pretty well, and they just made the shots,” he said. “I would say on about eight of those we didn’t have the urgency and the effort to cover shooters or get to shooters to be there when we needed to be.”
Duryea said that some nights Adams is “unguardable,” but it was Adams’ teammate Jason McManamen, a junior guard, who scored a game-high 20 points against USU last time out.
“I think McManamen has had a tremendous year and is almost as hard to guard in a different kind of way,” he said. “I think he’s got the quickest release from 3 in the league. So he helps space the floor and gives Adams more room to operate.”
The tipoff will take place at 12 noon MT on Wednesday from the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas.