Utes try to keep streak alive against Aggies

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Since halftime of the Rice game, the U men’s basketball team (3-3) has been playing with a chip on its shoulder. The Runnin’ Utes rallied for a comeback victory over the Owls on that night, then followed it with impressive wins against Weber State and Washington State.

That chip should come in handy tonight as the Utes travel up to Logan to square off against not only Utah State’s basketball team (6-1), but also one of the most hostile crowds in the country at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

“In the 21 years that I have coached, Tucson (University of Arizona) and Logan are the two most difficult places to play,” U coach Ray Giacoletti said. “(The crowd) is going to get after us, so we have to keep our team together.”

Regardless of where his Aggies play, Utah State head coach Stew Morrill has them playing well early this year. The team opened up the season with a tough loss against Northwestern State, but has since rattled off six consecutive victories.

Most recently, the Aggies humiliated Idaho State 83-46 in Logan. Junior guard Jaycee Carroll led Utah State that night with 22 points and will surely be a focus for Giacoletti and the newly revamped U defense tonight.

Carroll leads the Aggies in scoring (22.7 points per game) and rebounding (5.6 rebounds per game) this season and is also first in his conference in free-throw percentage (91.9 percent).

“We have to do a great job making him work for his shots,” Giacoletti said. “He’s a good player and he’s going to get his fair share of points, but we have to make him uncomfortable.”

Slated with the task of covering Carroll in the game tonight are Lawrence Borha and Ricky Johns. Borha similarly drew the role of covering Washington State star Derrick Low when the Cougars came to town last week. Low only managed three points in the decisive first-half of that game and finished with 15.

“LB (Lawrence Borha) has kind of set the defensive tone for us this year,” Giacoletti said. “He really provides us with a lot of energy.”

Fellow guard Durrall Peterson joins Carroll in the backcourt, averaging 10.3 points per game to tie for second on the team. Junior forward Stephen DuCharme carries much of the weight for the Aggies down low, averaging 10.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

With DuCharme standing at merely 6-foot-8, the Utes will most likely try to exploit their significant size advantage down low. Utah center Luke Nevill has had his way with opposing defenses thus far this season, leading the team with 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

“Getting the ball down low to Luke makes it easier on the rest of us,” Utah forward Shaun Green said. “When he’s not open to make the shot, he can usually throw it out to us for an open three.”

That formula has been successful for the Utes this season. The 7-foot-1 Aussie has drawn plenty of double-teams, which has, in turn, opened up the perimeter for the likes of sharpshooters like Green and Johnnie Bryant.

Green has connected on 17 of his 25 three-point attempts this season to rank first in the nation in the category (68 percent). When asked about his achievement, Green said he was “unaware” of it and that it doesn’t matter because it’s a team sport.

If there is one thing Green and the Utes are aware of, it’s that they are going to have one of their toughest match-ups of the year tonight in Logan.

“We’ve got to play as a team up there,” Green said. “It’s going to be loud, but if we can play our game plan, we should be fine.”

Kim Peterson

Neville battles a triple team in the Utes’ Dec. 2 victory against Washington State in the Huntsman Center. The Utes play the Utah State Aggies tonight at USU.