Nicholls State (1-5) at Utah State (6-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, December 20, 10:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: D.G. Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: Nicholls St. 1-0, USU 4-1. Away Record: Nicholls St. 0-5, USU 2-0. Neutral Record: Nicholls St. 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: Nicholls St. 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The first-ever meeting between the Utah State Aggies and the Nicholls State Colonels takes place at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah on Thursday as part of the World Vision Basketball Challenge.
Except for a 67-58 loss to Saint Mary's-CA more than a month ago now, the Aggies have been perfect this season and are currently rolling along with a five-game win streak. Sure, some of the competition has been somewhat questionable, such as meetings with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Western Oregon, but USU can only play the schools on the schedule. The most recent of those was Utah Valley last weekend, a meeting which resulted in a 69-63 road victory for Utah State.
As for the Colonels, a team which competes as a member of the Southland Conference, their slate has been much more difficult with dates against Vanderbilt, Missouri and Michigan State already. The team has been out of action now since Dec. 12 when it had a rematch against New Orleans, a squad it defeated last month by a score of 92-79. Unfortunately, this time around Nicholls was left with a 79-76 setback, the third straight for the program and the fifth in six tries overall this season.
Also involved in this three-day event are UC Davis and Southern Illinois, with every team matching up against each other before the end of play on Saturday.
Hard to believe, but Nicholls State shot almost 60 percent from the floor against New Orleans on the road the last time out and still lost. The problem is that the Colonels allowed the Privateers to shoot 55.6 percent from the field and 58.3 percent behind the 3-point line, all while the visitors turned the ball over 25 times. Fred Hunter still had a monster effort for Nicholls with 36 points, shooting 13-of-17 from the floor and 10-of-14 at the charity stripe, while also clearing a game-high nine rebounds. T.J. Carpenter kicked in another 14 points and six boards as he nailed each of his four triples in the setback. The team's leading scorer in all four games in which he has appeared, Hunter is producing a whopping 25.3 ppg as he shoots an impressive 66.7 percent from the field. Hunter also paces the program with 7.3 rpg, which means he accounts for a huge portion of the team's overall scoring (62.3 ppg) and rebounding (28.5 rpg).
The Aggies ended up shooting a healthy 54.7 percent from the floor against Utah Valley on the road last weekend, but the team's mere 3-of-14 effort behind the 3-point line made it a bit too close for comfort. Nevertheless, Utah State came up with the road win thanks to Marcel Davis who tallied a team-high 17 points and Jarred Shaw who recorded a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. As a group, USU won the rebounding battle by a 35-20 margin, allowing the hosts only five offensive boards. The effort by Shaw is nothing all that unusual really, given that he is currently averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and an even 10.0 rebounds per contest. Preston Medlin, expected to be one of the top performers in the Western Athletic Conference this season, accounts for 12.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg and better than three assists per outing.
Aside from Hunter, the Colonels don't have much in the way of a potent offensive attack. Hunter will probably pile up quality numbers again, but if he tries to get the job done all alone it won't be a successful trip for Nicholls State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 76, Nicholls State 65
12/20 10:36:33 ET