Aggies aim to put misery behind them against UC-San Diego
By Wade Denniston
After four games away from home, three at the Maui Invitational and one at Northern Arizona University, the Utah State University men's basketball team will be back in the Spectrum Saturday night to host the University of California at San Diego.
The Tritons, in La Jolla, Calif., come into the game with a 2-3 record (as of Tuesday) after two straight victories.
Utah State, on the other hand, comes into the game after a miserable 64-52 loss at NAU Tuesday, in a game that wasn't as close as the final score might indicate.
"I'm embarrassed by how we played," Aggie head coach Stew Morrill told KVNU radio. "I don't think there's any excuse for it. I think it's a waste of university funds to go on the road and not show up, and that's what I told our guys.
"I've been beat many times on the road, but not to compete is just unacceptable. We didn't compete."
It appeared the Aggies would be in for a long night as the Lumberjacks scored the first nine points of the game, including a couple of three-pointers from senior forwards Billy Hix and Ross Land.
Coming into the game, USU knew it would have to contain the three-point threat from Northern Arizona if it wanted to win, but the Aggies couldn't get it done.
The Jacks were able to connect on 9-of-21 treys, en route to the easy victory.
NAU led 30-14 at the half, and it appeared the Lumberjacks would be in for an easy night.
After opening Northern Arizona opened its largest lead of the game at 44-21, momentum began to change and Utah State started to climb back into it.
Down 46-24, Aggie sophomore guard Rashaun Thomas cut the Jacks' lead to 20, and then senior guard Troy Rolle buried his first shot of the game, a three-pointer, after starting 0-for-8.
A free throw by the 7-foot senior center Dan McClintock put Northern Arizona ahead 47-29, but USU cut the lead to 11 behind two dunks from junior forwards Shawn Daniels and Curtis Bobb, and another three from Rolle.
McClintock nailed two more free throws with 7:03 to go in the game, giving the Jacks a 49-36 lead, but the Aggies continued to fight their way back.
Junior guard Dion Bailey brought USU to within single digits of NAU at nine, after he went coast-to-coast on a steal and layup with 5:40 remaining.
Continuing to dwindle the lead down, the Aggies got as close as five points, 52-47, with 3:00 to go, when junior guard Bernard Rock dropped in two points.
However, Utah State would run out of steam there as Northern Arizona would ice the game by converting on 10 of its final 12 free throws.
"I just thought it was a shame how we came out in terms of our effort, our intensity, our mental preparation," Morrill told KVNU. "This basketball team has got to learn what it's like to play on the road. We don't know how yet.
"We played some neutral court games and we played very well. I don't know whether we got a little full of ourselves after Hawaii, we tried to explain that this is a good Northern Arizona team."
The Aggies will have a chance to turn things back in their favor when they host the Tritons Saturday.
Although Utah State and UC San Diego will be meeting for the first time, USU is 5-0 vs. teams from the city of San Diego.
Last year, the Tritons went 20-5 under fifth-year head coach Greg
Lanthier, who has an overall record of 78-47 at UC San Diego. The game
will begin at 7:05 p.m.