Utah State basketball prepares for conference-leading Wolfpack

LOGAN – Utah State didn’t look like a team that was on a four-game losing streak Saturday night. Four different Aggie players scored 10-plus points in the 78-65 win at home against Fresno State. Aggie big man Norbert Janicek was playing the paint with confidence, freshman Koby McEwen was sinking 3-point shots well-behind the arc and Alex Dargenton was making big defensive plays when needed.

If the Aggie players want to prove they’ve turned a corner, that the win wasn’t some lucky break, Wednesday night is their chance. USU will tip off against league-leading Nevada at 7 p.m in the Spectrum.

Overall, Utah State is 9-11 with a 3-6 conference record. That puts the Aggies in a three-way tie at the bottom of the standings. Nevada has only lost four games all season – two conference games and two non-conference games, but head coach Tim Duryea said the Mountain West is a league where any team can beat another. He said scores from around the conference continually surprise him and that there doesn’t seem to be one dominant team.

But Duryea is very impressed with the Wolfpack, on both sides of the ball.

“They have balance,” he said. “They are very good on the boards. They can make 3s, can score it around the basket and can drive the ball.”

At 21.1 points per game, Nevada wing Marcus Marshall is Nevada’s top scorer. Duryea said Marshall, along with other Nevada wing D.J. Fenner, who averages 13.7 points per game, can score “in about every way possible.”

Forward Jordan Caroline is another guy scoring double figures. He is averaging 14.1 points per night and leads the Wolfpack with more than nine rebounds per game too.

“He is a threat from three,” Duryea said, “but his energy is infectious for their team.”

Duryea said the toughest part of this game will be dealing with Cameron Oliver, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound sophomore averaging 14.9 points, eight rebounds and 2.8 blocks. Duryea said Oliver likes to roam the perimeter a lot for someone at the five spot, and it will be up to Norbert Janicek to defend him.

“(Janicek) will have his hands full and will have to guard in some situations that he may not be comfortable with in terms of being so far away from the basket and guarding a guy that has that much mobility and runs the floor that well,” Duryea said. “We’ll have to see how that one goes and adjust accordingly.”

Defensively, Oliver is a rim protector, and leads a Nevada defense that is holding opponents to low shooting percentages.

“When you are holding people to 27 percent from three and 40 percent overall with your defense, that is a fantastic foundation from which to build your basketball team,” Duryea said.

According to Duryea, the only real hole in Nevada’s game is its depth, but the team normally avoids foul trouble anyway.

“They are a smart, well-coached, balanced team on both sides of the ball,” he said. “They make you show up and beat them. It is simple in their approach, but they are very good in what they do.”

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