Utah State (14-5) at Idaho (8-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 31, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cowan Spectrum (7,000) -- Moscow, Idaho. Television: ESPN Regional, MASN. Home Record: USU 10-3, Idaho 4-5. Away Record: USU 4-2, Idaho 4-5. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, Idaho 0-1. Conference Record: USU 5-4, Idaho 4-5. Series Record: Utah State leads, 36-14.
GAME NOTES: Losers of four in a row, the Utah State Aggies try to regain their balance on Thursday night, as they tangle with the Idaho Vandals in Western Athletic Conference play at the Cowan Spectrum.
One of the more successful college programs in recent years, Utah State has been hit with a couple of crucial injuries recently, the most notable being to leading scorer Preston Medlin (16.3 ppg), who has a fractured wrist. Medlin's absence, along with that of Kyisean Reed (torn ACL), has the team reeling with four straight defeats after losing only once through its first 15 games.
The most recent setback for the Aggies came last weekend against Louisiana Tech at home in a 51-48 final. With the defeat, USU is now 5-4 in conference play which has the group tied with Texas-Arlington for fourth place in the standings.
Right behind the Aggies in the WAC is Idaho, with four wins in nine tries. The Vandals have been sporadic at best this season, winning back-to-back games only twice as they are now three games under .500 overall (8-11). The team took on Texas-San Antonio last Saturday and managed to pull out a 74-70 win, the second in the last three games for the group.
The Aggies lead the all-time series with Idaho by a count of 36-14, winning three straight decisions which includes an 82-75 overtime affair earlier this month. In that meeting, Preston Medlin tallied 22 points for USU, hitting the 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send it into overtime. All five starters for the Aggies scored in double figures, while Connor Hill led the way for the visitors to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum with 18 points.
Other than a brief two-point lead in the opening minutes of the meeting with Louisiana Tech, the Aggies just could not keep up with the visitors as the Bulldogs grabbed the win last weekend in Logan. Jarred Shaw responded with 21 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots for USU, followed by Spencer Butterfield with a double-double of his own consisting of 16 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, but the rest of the roster combined for only 11 points. Now that Medlin is out of the picture, the leading scorer for the Aggies in conference play is Butterfield with 12.9 ppg, while Shaw checks in with 12.1 ppg and a team-best 8.0 rpg. However, while Butterfield is capable of spreading the wealth with 26 assists through nine league bouts, the same cannot be said for Shaw who has but five dishes while playing close to 29 minutes per contest.
Kyle Barone asserted himself in the paint for the Vandals last Saturday, recording a double-double consisting of 25 points and 16 rebounds, adding three blocked shots all while shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from the floor in the close call against Texas-San Antonio. Also scoring in double figures for the hosts were Connor Hill and Stephen Madison with 15 and 13 points, respectively, as the group hit 52.0 percent from the floor overall and 9-of-20 behind the 3-point line. One of three players to have started all 19 games for the Vandals this season, Barone seems to be getting stronger as the campaign wears on, now averaging 16.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game to pace the program in both departments. Madison (15.1 ppg) and Hill (11.2 ppg) are also reliable scorers, but while the latter is connecting on 44.7 percent from the perimeter, the former is just 24.6 percent accurate on 3-point tries.
Even though Butterfield and Shaw have tried to step up and fill the void left by injury, there is only so much they can do. With that being said, this might be the perfect opportunity for the Vandals to show that they can be competitive in this league.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Idaho 67, Utah State 62
01/31 10:32:18 ET