LOGAN – After its first three games, the Utah State basketball team had most of its fans looking forward to a successful season. The team was winning, and was doing it by an average of more than 16 points.
The next two games were different. Many weaknesses seemed to be exposed as the Aggies left the Cancun Challenge with losses by 19 and 24 points.
“Both games, we did some good things for a half, or nearly a half, and then for a half or so we were not as good as we needed to be,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “When you step out on that stage and play that quality of teams, our guys found out that you need to battle, scrap and compete for the entire 40 minutes.”
Now USU must turn around and face a high-scoring rival in the Vivint Smart Home Arena when the team meets the BYU Cougars Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Like USU, BYU is 4-2 overall and is coming off two-straight losses. The first was a three-point defeat to Valparaiso on the road; the second was to Utah Valley at home. It was the first time in program history the Cougars had lost to UVU, and players were embarrassed.
Nick Emery, who scored 37 of BYU’s points during the game, said his team “played like wusses.”
Duryea said UVU’s performance on offense was likely its highlight of the year, but it didn’t change anything for this game. He is still expecting a tough team. He knows BYU isn’t easy to defend.
“If you take something away (from BYU), then you have to give something up on the other end,” he said. “Where UVU got fortunate is that (TJ) Haws went 1-for-10 and missed a lot of open looks. When you play as hard as UVU did and as well as UVU did, a lot of good fortune goes your way. As many good things as Utah Valley did, it still came down to UVU getting open shots and when they got them they jumped up and knocked them down.”
Emery is likely to score points anytime he gets on the floor, but 6-foot-10 sophomore Eric Mika is the leading scorer at 19.7 points per game. Purdue was able to score a lot of points on USU with its big guy inside; BYU is expected to do the same.
Freshman guard TJ Haws averages 11.5 points per game while former Aggie and senior forward Kyle Davis contributes another 10.2.
“They are well coached as always, and are a better defensive team than they get credit for,” Duryea said. “They are always a handful. It will be a tall task as always.”