Utah State building momentum as conference tourney approaches

#0 Shane Rector

LOGAN – A smiling Koby McEwen sat down in front of the press following his team’s 13-point win on Jan. 28. The Utah State freshman was feeling good after leading his team with 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists against Fresno State in front of his crowd. What had to feel even better was finally helping snap his basketball team’s four-game losing streak.

The four-straight losses were a concern to Aggie fans, but it seemed McEwen had put it all behind him.

“We’ll peak at the right time in March,” he said, “and everything will be fine.”

The Fresno State win was nice, but it didn’t resolve USU’s issues. The team recorded a .500 record in the eight games since and hit definite low points with double-digit losses at Nevada and Colorado State.

But maybe McEwen was on to something. With one game left before the Mountain West tournament, things look a little different now. USU has a real shot at finishing on a three-game winning streak – its longest since beating Great Falls, Utah Valley and New Orleans in December. The most recent victories include the team’s first conference road win and a 31-point rout of Air Force, USU’s most lopsided conference victory this season. A Wednesday trip at UNLV will finish the regular season.

If the team is peaking as McEwen predicted, who is to say the Aggies couldn’t make a run?

Senior wing Jalen Moore is with his freshman teammate. He said he thinks USU is playing its best basketball of the year. Even as an underdog in the tournament, Moore wants Utah State to be feared.

“We want to make some people look out for us,” he said. “We want to make people not want to play us in the first or second round of the tournament.

“The tournament is crazy, our conference is crazy. This year anybody can beat anybody, we’ve all seen that.”

Head coach Tim Duryea said he noticed a change in his team after the win at San Jose State. He saw confidence backed up with performance on the court.

“It’s amazing what winning does for you in terms of how your body feels,” he said. “We need to finish the season on the right note. Whatever seed that gets us, whatever matchup that gets us, that’s the way it is. In this league it’s not about your seed. It’s about your matchup. Even though the league is wide open and all that, there are still matchups that are better for you than others.”

It would be bold to predict a deep tournament run based on the team’s consistency. A first round bye is out of the question, and getting to the conference championship would require three-straight Mountain West wins, something USU has yet to prove it can do. It would also have to happen without the luxury of any games at home. USU is 1-7 away from the Spectrum in league play.

But Duryea doesn’t want his team to dwell on the losses. He told his players not to look back, but to just look ahead.

If what McEwen predicted one month ago is true, the past won’t matter much anyway.

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Posted in USU