It’s been 10 days since the Utah State men’s basketball team took the court for a game.
There will surely be some nerves to overcome tonight when the Aggies welcome Division II Western Oregon to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. USU was scheduled to play at BYU on Wednesday, but that game was postponed when Aggie junior Danny Berger collapsed during practice on Tuesday, was revived and flown to a hospital in Murray.
With Berger getting better, USU returned to practice Thursday.
“It will be interesting with all the circumstances with Danny (Berger) and everything,” Aggie head coach Stew Morrill said Friday morning. “It will be interesting to see where we’re at. We went back to the practice floor yesterday, because of Danny’s improved situation, the kids were a littler rusty, but in good spirits and had about as good a workout as you could expect.”
The coach does not want his team to overlook the Wolves, who come to town riding a six-game winning streak. USU (4-1) and Western Oregon (6-2) are scheduled to tip off at 7 o’clock. Friday evening Berger announced he and his family are planning on being at the Spectrum for the game.
While that will definitely be a lift for the Aggies, they still must play the game.
“We always try and make sure our kids understand how we need to respect who we’re playing, especially when you look at how well they’re handing the ball and their record,” Morrill said. “... One thing I’ve always tried to get across to my teams is that we don’t like somebody big-timing us, let’s not big-time anybody. We better show up ready to play. I’ve been to enough of these games to know that they’re often times not easy.”
The Wolves come to Logan having beat Central Washington in triple overtime, 118-113, last Saturday. They also have an OT win during their streak.
Western Oregon starts four guards and the tallest starter is 6-foot-6. There are two 6-8 players coming off the bench.
“They do a good job of pushing the ball and they shoot a lot of threes,” Morrill said of the Wolves. “They’ve won some close games by making a bunch of threes. They pressure a little bit, they run you around in a four-out motion deal, use some of the Princeton system in their offensive philosophy.
“... I’m sure they’ll feel like they have some mismatches in terms of size and rebounding and that sort of stuff, but at the same time we’re guarding a lot and are kind of mismatched with their four guards out there. It will challenge our defense.”
Western Oregon forward Andy Avgi scored 36 points in the last game and is averaging 21.8 on the season. Four Wolves are averaging double-figure scoring, including guard Devon Alexander, who comes off the bench to score 11.6 per game. Alexander had 28 points off the bench in the last outing.
When the Aggies last played, they also came out victorious in overtime. USU won at Santa Clara, 80-78.
The Aggies have rebounded well throughout the first five games and rank fourth nationally in rebound margin at plus 13.6. That could be a problem for the smaller Wolves, who are minus 4.9 in rebound margin.
With Berger out, junior Spencer Butterfield will get the nod to start tonight. Butterfield has averaged 18.2 minutes a game off the bench and is scoring 5.0 points and grabbing 2.8 rebounds an outing.
Marvin Jean will see more minutes and freshman Quincy Bair is no longer redshirting.
“Spencer (Butterfield) has been first off the bench at the wing and has played both the three (forward) and the two (guard),” Morrill said. “Marvin (Jean) will obviously get more opportunities. ... Quincy Bair is available for play and just in terms of number status, he totally understood that yesterday. We’ve got to have enough guys to play, that’s for sure. ... We’re in a situation now where Quincy needs to play.”
Trying to reschedule the BYU game has been difficult. The Aggies and Cougars are still working on finding a date, but as of Friday had not come up with a day.
“Both schools are working on that,” answered Morrill when asked about BYU. “As I’ve said, they’ve been great in this situation. It’s just a dilemma right now with conference play around the corner and both of us having full schedules. Finals Week is next week and that was looked at. We’re trying to look at all the options, but that’s the stage we’re in right now. We have not found a date that works yet.”