Friday, January 28, 2011
Utah State quietly keeps on winning
By Diamond Leung
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- BYU is the talk of the nation, but have you heard? There’s another team in the state that’s making some noise.
It’s Utah State that has the nation’s third-longest active winning streak, and the Aggies stretched that to 14 games after handling their business in an 84-65 win at San Jose State on Thursday.
Peaking once again during WAC play, the 19-2 Aggies are ranked No. 25 and don’t really mind that BYU is the team leading the local newscasts and overshadowing some of their success.
“I feel like it has, but that’s fine,” said Utah State forward Tai Wesley, who has been following what he calls the Jimmer Show. “We don’t care about attention. We care about wins.”
Brockeith Pane and Utah State improved to a perfect 8-0 in the WAC with a win over San Jose State.
The only two teams Utah State has lost to this season? BYU and Georgetown, both ranked teams that got to play the Aggies at home. They haven’t lost since the Hoyas blew them out on Dec. 4, but have improved during the latest streak.
The last time the defending regular-season WAC champs played San Jose State -- and won by nine on New Years’ Eve -- coach Stew Morrill blew his top in the halftime locker room speech.
“He went nuts,” Wesley said. “He was kicking over stools, spitting and yelling. I don’t know how many episodes like that he has left.”
Said Morrill: “We’re really a team that has to defend and play hard. I didn’t think our energy level was up. I have a hard time when my teams don’t play hard.”
The Aggies have won all but one of their games since then by double digits, and by beating San Jose State, which was without injured point guard Justin Graham, they’ve now won 22 straight WAC games and 34 of their past 36 regular-season games.
Wesley, the WAC’s preseason player of the year as voted on by the league’s coaches, has been dominant down low with his .608 field-goal percentage. Nate Bendall has played through foot pain to bolster the frontcourt along with Brady Jardine, who is tied as the team leader in rebounds with Wesley.
The player that gives Utah State an extra boost in athleticism is point guard Brockeith Pane, a junior college transfer who played his freshman season at Houston.
“We got to earn people’s respect,” said Pane, who scored 13 points against San Jose State. “If we continue to bring it, the sky’s the limit.”
Brian Green came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points, hitting all five of his 3-point attempts, but don’t expect many Jimmer-like single-game numbers for a program known for its methodical play.
The Aggies do have experience with winning and are showing it right now.
“We got a lot of seniors and leadership,” Wesley said. “Each game we’re getting better.”