No. 17 Utah State hosts winless UTSA

NCAA Basketball

No. 17 Utah State is at a point now in its surging program where a 27-point win is not sufficient.

That was the case in its last win, an 81-54 rout of North Carolina A&T on Friday night at Logan, Utah. The Aggies (4-0) were more concerned about leading by only 42-36 in the second half rather than the ultimate outcome.

“It was a grind, especially early on,” Utah State sophomore forward Justin Bean said. “We just weren’t ourselves and weren’t playing our brand of basketball. We turned the ball over too much. That goes on everybody, from guards to bigs, just being locked in mentally.”

The Aggies’ 15 turnovers also gnawed at coach Craig Smith.

“It was just one of those nights where I thought we were trying hard, but it was just a lot of things did not really go like we wanted them to or anticipated them to, and some nights you have those kind of nights,” Smith said. “To our guys’ credit, there was no complaining or pointing fingers, it was very positive.”

The Aggies have another opportunity to refine themselves with their fifth straight home game to start the season when UTSA (0-4) visits Monday night. Utah State has won four straight over Montana State, Weber State, Denver and North Carolina A&T by an average margin of 32.7 points.

Bean is averaging 14.3 points and 11.0 rebounds per game and shooting 51.2 percent from the field. He is one of many players who make Utah State much more than preseason national player of the year candidate Sam Merrill, a senior guard.

Merrill leads the Aggies with 16.5 points per game and has made 53.8 percent of his 3-pointers (7 of 13).

Brock Miller is averaging 13.8 points while shooting 41.9 percent from beyond the arc. Alphonso Anderson is shooting 58.3 percent from the field and averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.

UTSA will wrap up a five-game road swing. It lost in the season opener on Nov. 5 at Oklahoma, 85-67, before losing to Southern Illinois, Oakland and Delaware in a three-game event in Kissimmee, Fla., from Nov. 8-10.

The Roadrunners have struggled offensively, averaging 67.0 points per game, shooting 35.5 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from 3-point range. Meanwhile, opponents are averaging 80.8 points per game, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from behind the arc.

“Transition and second shots are really hurting us on defense,” UTSA coach Steve Henson said. “We have to do a better job of responding and slowing teams down.”

UTSA has not shown much support for junior guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. Jackson averages 25.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and Wallace averages 13.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

The Aggies are averaging 87.0 points per game, shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 38.8 percent from behind the 3-point range.

Utah State’s strengths are its defense and rebounding. The Aggies are averaging 44.8 rebounds per game, with a margin of 15.8 a game. Opponents are shooting only 35.0 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from downtown.

–Field Level Media

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