GAME NOTES: The team with the best record in the Western Athletic Conference settles in for another league battle on Saturday night, as the Utah State Aggies clash with the Idaho Vandals at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Since losing to Saint Mary's back on Nov. 15, just the second game of the season for the Aggies, the team turned around and ripped off 11 straight victories and is now 3-0 in league play which is good enough for first place. On Thursday night, Utah State topped visiting Seattle in a 75-66 final which means the squad is now 8-1 in its own building this season.
As for the Vandals, they may be just 6-6 overall, but they are 2-0 in conference play entering the weekend, which means they join USU and Louisiana Tech as the only programs yet to fall in league action. Two nights ago, the Idaho defense went to work against San Jose State in a 64-55 victory, marking the third win in the last four games for the program.
Utah State won the most recent meeting in the middle of March last season with a 76-56 victory, which means the squad has now taken two in a row and is 35-14 in the all-time series. Another positive stat for the Aggies has them winning all but one of the 18 matchups played on their home floor.
Idaho's defense against the Spartans on Thursday was just spectacular, holding SJSU to a minuscule 28.2 percent shooting from the floor and 3-of-20 behind the 3-point line. Kyle Barone attacked on the inside for the Vandals as he registered a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, followed by Stephen Madison and Mike McChristian with 15 and 10 points, respectively, as the trio combined for seven blocked shots as well. Barone, the leading scorer for the Vandals in each of the last four outings, checks in with 16.3 ppg and is also first with 8.5 rpg, his close proximity to the basket being the reason why he is also shooting close to 60 percent from the field. Madison accounts for another 15.0 ppg, but that number could be higher if not for the fact that he has decided to take nearly one-third of his shot attempts from 3-point range where he is just 21.4 percent accurate.
Utah State fell behind early in the first half against the Redhawks, but the team then proceeded to connect on 51.7 percent from the floor in the first half and all but three of 20 chances at the free-throw line after the break in order to bring home the nine-point win. Kyisean Reed stepped up with a double- double for the hosts with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Preston Medlin contributed another 18 points, five assists and three steals. Not to be outdone, Marcel Davis chipped in 13 points and a team-best seven assists as the team logged assists on all but six of their 25 field goals. Medlin, who is shooting 40.6 percent beyond the arc at the moment, leads the team in scoring with 15.3 ppg, while Jarred Shaw and Reed come in with 12.8 and 12.3 ppg, respectively. Neither Shaw nor Reed has even attempted a 3-point shot this season which tells the story of a couple of players who know their roles and are comfortable with a combined 15.2 rpg at the moment.
Idaho may be undefeated in two conference games entering the weekend, but the team is still no match for the Aggies when they are playing at home, just as long as the Vandals don't come up with another incredible defensive effort.