January was a busy month for the Aggies.
Counting the last day of 2020, the Utah State men’s basketball team played 10 games in 28 days. There was very little time to work on areas that may be lacking or get much extra time in the practice gym. Trying to be smart with keeping players mentally and physically prepared for each game prevented long practice sessions.
After last Wednesday’s Mountain West Conference game at UNLV, you could almost hear a sigh of relief from USU head coach Craig Smith when asked about having more than a week off before the next game. The Aggies (13-5, 10-2 MW) return to action this Thursday when they travel to Fresno State (7-6, 5-6) for a two-game series.
After taking a couple of days off, USU returned to practice in preparation for the next stretch of games. Beginning Thursday, the Aggies will play the final eight conference games of the regular season in 25 days — if there are no COVID-19 interruptions.
USU lost two games to COVID back in December. After 10 days between games, the Aggies returned with a vengeance. They won 10 in a row, including a sweep of San Diego State. USU had won a game before the unexpected break, so the winning streak was at 11.
Then the Aggies dropped two in a row, but went into this stretch off of no games in eight days after a win at UNLV. Perhaps the break and work in the practice gym will pay off like the last one.
“This is a really tight-knit group, tight-knit team,” Smith said. “This time of year is a little like the dog days. As a coach, you are always looking out for that kind of stuff. We need to keep our minds right and our bodies right. I hope we can recharge and come back with a flourish.”
Losses to Colorado State at home and at UNLV have the Aggies a half game behind league-leading Boise State (14-2, 10-1). USU travels to Boise, Idaho, late this month for a two-game series.
Colorado State (12-4, 9-3) is right behind the leaders. The Rams have split with USU, BSU and SDSU — and have handed five conference foes their first league loss this season. The Rams are in a good position to finish on top should the Aggies or Broncos falter. The Aztecs (13-4, 7-3) have been on a roll of late and get to host Boise State later this month.
Ending their losing streak at two was a good sign for the USU coach. The Aggies led most of the game and held off several UNLV charges to record a 83-74 win last Wednesday.
“I think we went into the break with some confidence,” Smith said. “There is always a fine line between winning and losing. Sometimes you can get sideways pretty quick. We still control our destiny and everything we want to do. That’s what’s really exciting.”
After playing at Fresno State, USU returns home to host Wyoming next week. The Aggies end the season with a series at Boise State and then one at home against Nevada.
Guard Rollie Worster was named the America First Credit Union USU Student-Athlete of the week Monday.
Worster nearly recorded a triple-double last week as USU split a pair of MW road games at UNLV with a 59-56 loss and an 83-74 win. In the first game, Worster finished with nine points, three rebounds, two steals and one assist.
In the second game, Worster flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 19 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Worster finished the game shooting 53.8 percent (7 of 13) from the floor and 100.0 percent (4 of 4) at the free throw line.
For the week, Worster averaged 14.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game, while shooting 47.8 percent (11 of 23) from the floor and 80.0 percent (4 of 5) at the free throw line.
MW PLAYER OF THE WEEK
With their first sweep of a conference opponent since 2017, the Spartans also picked up an individual award for Ralph Agee.
The San Jose State forward helped his team defeat Air Force twice last week. Agee was named the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday by the league.
The senior averaged 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds, while shooting 80 percent (16 of 20) from the field. Agee hit the game-winning bucket in a 59-58 victory. In a 75-62 win, he finished with a career-high 22 points and 14 rebounds.