Sticking together, like any good family would, the Aggie men’s basketball team has been able to pull out of a nose dive.
Having dropped an unheard of four straight games, Utah State has now won two in a row. The latest coming at Seattle on Saturday in convincing fashion, 68-46.
“Our new thing is we are a family, and we’ve got to play together as a team now,” said Aggie guard/forward Spencer Butterfield, who recorded his fourth consecutive double-double on Saturday with 13 points and 11 rebounds. “Our two best guys are out right now, but we are playing as a team. I think that is why we are playing so well right now. Everyone is contributing, everybody knows they can play, everybody knows their role.”
Against the Redhawks, all eight USU players that saw action scored and had at least one rebound. The Aggies also had four players reach double figures in scoring. Joining Butterfield were Jarred Shaw (16), TeNale Roland (12) and Marcel Davis (11).
“If we are going to have a chance to win, some guys are going to have to step up,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said. “They know that. We’ve been encouraging them. ... You got to believe you can play and go out there and get some things done. More guys have done that.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up. Different guys are doing different things. Marvin (Jean) had about eight deflections in the first half. He was so active defensively. Jarred (Shaw) is scoring comfortably now. Marcel (Davis) had an awfully good weekend, and Spencer (Butterfield) is Spencer. He just plays his ... off every game. That’s contagious when a guy plays that hard.”
USU (16-5, 7-4 Western Athletic Conference) certainly gained some confidence on the recent road trip, which began with a 77-67 win at Idaho last Thursday. The Aggies went into both games as an underdog.
“I don’t think a lot of people would have laid odds on us sweeping this trip,” Morrill said. “I don’t think you would have got much money on that bet. It’s very rewarding as a coach. I’m very proud of our team.”
“We worked hard for this,” Roland said. “Nobody is going to give us a win. We got to come out and battle each and every night. We worked for it.”
With the two wins, USU is sitting in fourth place in the conference standings.
“The guys have gained some confidence,” Morrill said. “We need to keep getting better, as long as we can stay healthy.”
The chemistry with the remaining eight players seems to be progressing.
“We’re getting used to playing with each other in practice,” Butterfield said. “We’re still playing super hard. That’s one thing I’m going to keep saying. We just play harder than anybody. ... Every practice we come to play hard and now you can see it on the court.”
USU outrebounded Seattle by 19 and moved up to eighth nationally in rebound margin at plus 8.9.
“We have been playing hard,” Morrill said. “You can tell how active we were with the rebounding. This weekend we got better offensively. That’s a key thing. ... We scored easier, made more plays.”
“Coach has been hounding us over and over about defense, turnovers and rebounding,” Roland said. “... We’ve had to limit our turnovers and rebound the ball more. It’s all about playing defense and stopping guys.”
The Aggies play just one game this week. They travel to San Jose State (9-13, 3-8) to take on the Spartans on Friday.
“It will be good for our guys,” Butterfield said. “We’ve got a lot people that are a little beat up. A couple of days off will definitely do us good since we don’t have a lot of depth.”