While it wasn’t a part of any of the in-season tournaments played on Thursday night, an important contest matching two of the better non-BCS programs in the country took place in Logan, Utah.
Saint Mary’s visited Utah State in a game that is likely to become even bigger as the season wears on when we begin to look at teams’ NCAA tournament resumes, and the Gaels left the Spectrum with a 67-58 victory.
Despite out-rebounding the Gaels 49-30 and turning the ball over just ten times, Utah State fell for one simple reason: they couldn’t shoot.
The Aggies shot 32.3% from the field and 3-of-16 from three last night, and leading scorer Preston Medlin managed just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field. Those factors were enough to cancel out the rebounding edge and the fact that junior center Jarred Shaw accounted for 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“I’m not doom-and-gloom about that game and I don’t want our kids to be. We’ve just got some guys who need to find their way,” said head coach Stew Morrill after the game.
“We were nervous, we didn’t shoot the ball well. We hung in there and kept competing, but we just couldn’t make shots. With that poor of a percentage, it’s obviously hard to win, especially against a really good team.”
By comparison the Gaels shot 45.7% from the field with Matthew Dellavedova scoring a game-high 21 points, Stephen Holt adding 16 and one-time Aggie James Walker III scoring 14 points in his return to the Spectrum.
While there certainly isn’t a need for Utah State or its fans to panic just two games into the season, there is the question of the impact a game like this could have on their NCAA tournament resume to consider.
A look at the Aggies’ non-conference schedule makes you wonder if they’ll have enough opportunities to impress before entering WAC play, with the game at BYU on December 5 looking like their best opportunity for a “statement” victory.
Utah State also has games against Weber State (November 24), who is expected to contend in the Big Sky despite the loss of Damian Lillard, and at Santa Clara (November 28). But the non-conference slate that Utah State has likely makes that BracketBusters home game on February 22 or 23 all the more important should they not grab the WAC’s automatic berth.
Given Utah State’s performance on the offensive end of the floor during the Morrill era, it’s unlikely that Medlin and company will duplicate last night’s shooting performance. But could the impact of a cold two hours cost them on Selection Sunday? Only time will tell.
Quote courtesy of Utah State University