A week ago it was looking great for the Utah State men’s basketball team.
The Aggies were enjoying a 13-game winning streak, were undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play and were getting votes in both Top 25 polls.
What a difference a game can make.
USU suffered its first loss in more than two months last Thursday at New Mexico State, 64-51. The Aggies were dealt two more blows in that game when captains Kyisean Reed and Preston Medlin were injured. They missed Saturday’s 68-57 loss at Denver.
At the time, there was worry the injuries might be serious. Turns out they were very serious.
Reed, a senior forward, will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Medlin, a junior guard and Preseason WAC Player of the Year, has a fractured right wrist and is expected to miss six to eight weeks, but could possibly be gone for the rest of the season.
“First and foremost is our concern for Kyisean and Preston,” USU head coach Stew Morrill said in a statement Monday morning. “This is as tough as it gets and we hurt for them first, and our team, second.”
Reed is scheduled to have surgery on Thursday. Medlin’s wrist is in a cast.
Both players took charges in the early going of the contest at NMSU, but the injuries happened later in the game.
Medlin thought he had taken another charge with 1:16 left in the first half when NMSU guard Daniel Mullings plowed into him. Medlin put out his hand to brace himself as he fell, injured his wrist and was called for a foul.
While he held his wrist and seemed to wince, Medlin stayed in the game and finished with a team-best 14 points — seven of those coming after getting hurt. He ended up playing 36 minutes on Thursday and tried to practice Friday.
“Preston was practicing with his left hand only,” said Morrill Saturday after the Denver game. “Well, that ain’t going to work.”
Reed landed weird trying to drive to the hoop against NMSU’s 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhullar late in the contest. He subbed out with 3:16 to play and did not return after playing 27 minutes. Reed had six points and a team-high three assists.
“Kyisean’s knee was about that (motioning with his hands) big on Friday, so he didn’t even practice,” Morrill said.
Both watched from the bench in street clothes on Saturday.
Medlin is leading the Aggies in scoring with 16.3 points per game and was leading the WAC in league games, averaging 20.7 ppg. The 6-4 guard was also averaging 3.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game, while shooting 47.4 percent from the field, 81.8 percent from the free throw line and 39.3 percent from 3-point range. Medlin was averaging 36.06 minutes a contest, which leads the WAC.
Reed, the lone senior on the team, was averaging 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game, while shooting a team-best 58.2 percent from the field. The 6-6 forward leads the Aggies in blocks and steals, is second in rebounding and third in scoring.
“Kyisean’s senior season is done, which is so sad,” Morrill said on his coaches show on KVNU radio Monday evening. “... It’s a sad day when your career is cut short.”
In Saturday’s game at Denver, sophomore Ben Clifford started in Reed’s place, and junior Marvin Jean replaced Medlin. Jean led the team with 14 points, while Clifford made all four of his shots for eight points before fouling out with 1:09 to play.
“We expect our players to step up and compete, as we have a lot of season left,” Morrill said. “... When you get a chance to play minutes, you expect a guy to respond like Marvin (Jean) did.”
This latest blow leaves the Aggies with eight players available that have seen any action this season. Connor Garner, a 6-2 freshman guard from Ogden, dressed for the Denver game. He is a walk-on who started the season as a practice player, but was available if needed last Saturday. Quinn Taylor, a 6-6 freshman forward, is redshirting, but may be forced into duty. Levi Pace recently returned from an LDS Church mission and is just a practice player right now.
“I feel we can still be a contender in this thing,” Morrill said on KVNU. “Others will have to pick up the slack. It’s not going to do us any good to sulk around. ... We are going to have to adjust on the fly.
Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland will share the point guard duties, Roland and Spencer Butterfield will play at shooting guard, Butterfield and Marvin Jean will be at the three, Clifford and Jordan Stone will be at the four, while Jarred Shaw and Matt Lopez take care of the five spot. That’s the plan for now.
Losing Medlin and Reed are just the latest of a string of bad luck for the Aggies. Forward Brady Jardine was going to come back for the 2012-13 campaign after a foot injury, but was told it was career ending. Forward Sean Harris, a junior college transfer, was lost for the season before it even began with a knee injury. Freshman guard Riley Bradshaw left the team in late October. Starting forward Danny Berger collapsed in practice in early December, going into full cardiac arrest. Berger is back doing light workouts, but isn’t expected to return this season. Then, in late December, freshman guard Quincy Bair quit the team.