Louisiana Tech (17-3) at Utah State (14-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 26, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: LaTech 8-0, USU 10-2. Away Record: LaTech 7-3, USU 4-2. Neutral Record: LaTech 2-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: LaTech 8-0, USU 5-3. Series Record: Utah State leads, 14-3.
GAME NOTES: Struggling to remain competitive of late, the Utah State Aggies try to hold down the fort in Logan on Saturday night as they host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Western Athletic Conference play at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Riddled by injury this season, the Aggies have taken a couple of very hard hits within the last week or so with the loss of leading scorer Preston Medlin (16.3 ppg) to a broken wrist and Kyisean Reed to knee surgery. Consequently, the team is in the midst of a three-game slide, after losing only once through the first 15 games.
On Thursday night, USU played host to Texas-Arlington, a team which had a .500 record at the time, and was defeated by the Mavericks in a 74-68 final.
While the Aggies are trying to stabilize their situation, Louisiana Tech has been cruising along with the best record in the conference at 8-0. If not for a couple of puzzling setbacks to Northwestern State and McNeese State in December, this Tech squad would be one of the most successful programs in college basketball right now.
On Thursday night, LaTech invaded The Event Center in San Jose, California and delivered a 76-54 win over the Spartans, their ninth win in a row overall. For the first time since the 1987-88 campaign, Tech has now recorded a pair of winning streaks of at least seven games in the same season.
In terms of the all-time series between these two squads, USU has captured 14 wins in 17 meetings, taking all seven contests played in Logan. In 2011-12, the Aggies swept the games played during the regular season, but in the conference tournament the Bulldogs responded with a 72-70 victory in Las Vegas.
LaTech struggled out of the gate against the Spartans a couple nights back, shooting just 36.7 percent from the floor in the first half, including 1-of-11 beyond the arc, but the Bulldogs got it together in the second half as they eventually crushed the hosts by 22 points. Raheem Appleby produced a game-high 17 points in 26 minutes for the visitors, followed by Alex Hamilton with 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals during his 25 minutes on the floor. Brandon Gibson played a conservative 18 minutes, en route to his 13 points. Somehow, despite shooting just 40.8 percent from the floor in conference play, the Bulldogs have found a way not just to win, but to remain undefeated through eight games. The team doesn't have a single regular starter averaging double figures in WAC action, instead it is Kenyon McNeail with 13.4 ppg and Hamilton with 10.1 ppg, which means this group has a variety of weapons at their disposal and are not afraid to let any one of them take the lead on any particular night.
Through no fault of their own, the Aggies are starting to become painful to watch. One of the more dominant teams in the WAC the last few seasons, USU has fallen on hard times with key injuries in 2012-13 and the outlook for the remainder of the campaign doesn't look too promising right now. On Thursday night the program was stunned by Texas-Arlington at home of all places, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor against an opponent that entered the contest just .500 on the campaign. If nothing else, the recent injuries have given role players such as Spencer Butterfield an opportunity to show what he can do, resulting in 23 points and 11 rebounds two nights ago. Ben Clifford and Marvin Jean added 12 and 11 points, respectively, the former clearing nine boards and blocking four shots as well. Over the course of eight conference outings, the active leader in scoring is Butterfield with 12.5 ppg, while Jarred Shaw contributes another 11.0 ppg and is tops with 7.3 rpg.
One of the most successful teams on their home floor in college basketball the last few seasons, the Aggies are going to have their hands full for the remainder of the campaign, which means LaTech is in prime position to remain undefeated in conference play on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana Tech 72, Utah State 61
01/26 10:45:34 ET