Bouncing back from a tough loss can be hard.
The Aggies insist they will not have any sort of hangover from their home-opening setback to BYU last Saturday. They learned from the 67-64 loss and are moving forward.
There is not much time to dwell on it anyway. The Utah State men’s basketball team is back in action Tuesday night in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aggies host NAIA College of Idaho. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and 1,628 fans will be allowed to watch it live.
“The BYU game taught us a lot,” USU guard Marco Anthony said. “It showed us we are not even close to our full potential. We learned we need to bring it for all 40 minutes. The second half of the first half we dug ourselves a bigger hole than we could climb out of. We are hurt because we lost, but we see the positives in it as well.”
The Aggies (1-3) will be looking to put a full game together against the Yotes (1-1), who are coming off a 86-49 loss at Boise State last Friday. This game was announced less than a week ago.
“We are coming off a tough game, a tough loss, an emotional game,” said USU head coach Craig Smith, who met with media Monday via zoom as he is in quarantine because of COVID-19. “I know our guys are excited to play. It will be good to be at home again in front of our crowd.”
Last year these two met in Logan in an exhibition game. The Aggies rolled to a 103-66 win and five players reached double figures in scoring, including returners Justin Bean (18), Sean Bairstow (11), Brock Miller (10) and Trevin Dorius (10). The Yotes went on to be ranked No. 1 in NAIA and won their first game in the national tournament before sports were halted because of COVID. They had a 31-3 record.
“The College of Idaho is a well-coached team,” Smith said. “They run really good stuff. We are going to have to be on point defending because they put you in some funky spots that we really haven’t seen a lot. ... They had a heck of a season last year. I coached at that level and understand how good teams are and how good players are at that level.”
Smith will once again miss the game because of testing positive for COVID. He has no symptoms and feels fine. What was it like missing the BYU game?
“It sucked,” Smith said. “I woke up that day and it was a weird feeling. I have been through that before. You feel good and can’t be at the gym. It is what it is.
“I watched the game and it was tough. You go through a lot of emotions. ... You just have no control over anything. It’s a players’ game, always has been, always will be. Those guys go out there and get it done. But if you are there as a head coach, you feel like you have a little bit of control. ... There was a lot of screaming and yelling and clapping. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I’m glad there was not a camera at my house recording it.”
The Yotes are led by junior forward Jalen Galloway, who is averaging 19.5 points a game. Senior guard Ricardo Time is the only other player on the team scoring in double figures at 13.0. Former Preston High School star Derek Wadsworth is a starter and is averaging 4.0 points and 3.0 rebounds a game.
Neemias Queta continues to lead the Aggies with 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds a game. Joining Queta in double-figure scoring is Anthony (13.8) and guard Rollie Worster (12.8). Justin Bean is contributing 9.8 points and 7.3 rebounds an outing.
Worster has scored more points through four games (51) than any other true freshman in program history. Koby McEwen and Jaycee Carroll held the previous mark at 47 points apiece.
“Rollie is dependable,” Smith said. “He only cares about winning. He has a moxie and swagger but not in a cocky way. He is very poised and under control. He makes his teammates better.”
Will the Aggies be working more on themselves Tuesday night?
“We are just trying to figure out who we are on both sides,” Smith said. “We approach every game the same way in terms of how we do film, walk throughs, preparation. Certainly we have to be better. ... We have to cut our problems in half. We have had too many breakdowns.”
The head coach liked how his team played “way better” defensively in the second half against BYU. Offensively, there are too many scoring droughts.
“We have to shoot the three better,” Smith said. “We have to finish around the basket better as well. We missed 22 shots right around the rim and that is everybody. ... We need to find some consistency on the offensive end of the floor.”
Smith said he is confident his team will continue to get better the more they play together. A tough schedule and no exhibition games have made for some challenges to start the 2020-21 season.
“We have to find a way to get better,” Smith said. “We have to play better with more consistency. We have got to get something out of our bench. We have not gotten a lot of production out of our bench.”