USU looking to be more consistent on defense against defensive-minded Aztecs – Cache Valley Daily

SAN DIEGO — The Aggies will look to snap a two-game losing streak against the Aztecs on Tuesday night. Utah State (15-11, 6-7) visits San Diego State (15-6, 7-3) at Viejas Arena as the Aggies look to get their second season sweep of a conference foe. 

Utah State handed the Aztecs their worst loss of the season by deficit, 75 to 57, in January, however, the Aggies’ 13-point loss to Nevada indicates we may not see a similar scoreline. Head coach Ryan Odom said he knows how his team played in the first game against the Aztecs — let alone how they played on Friday — will not cut it against the fourth-place team in the conference. 

“We have to respond to how we played in our last game. We didn’t play particularly well,” Odom said. “I think our guys are excited to play after our last performance. (They) understand that we’ve got to play much better in this particular game, than even we even did in the first game, in order to come out with a win.”

The main thing Odom wants to improve from Friday’s loss is the Aggies’ defense. He said Utah State gave up 24 points on uncontested layups because they did not guard well and were often not in position for help defense. 

“The guys have seen all that on film at this point, but you know, it can’t be ‘it’s here for two games, and then it’s gone for another.’ We have to be more consistent with our effort there on defense,” Odom said. 

In San Diego State’s last contest, they beat Air Force, 76 to 64. The Aztecs have turned things around after a stretch of losing three of five games, including a loss to Utah State. Since then, San Diego State is on a three-game winning streak with their last two victories coming by double-digit points. During this stretch, and throughout most of February, guard Matt Bradley has hit full stride for the Aztecs. 

In the last four games, he has set season-highs in points, 3-pointers made, minutes and other categories. In three of those games, Bradley has scored at least 26 points. On the season, he averages 17.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists. 

Before the first game between the Aztecs and Aggies this season, Odom described Bradley as a “James Harden” style player. When he visited the Spectrum, Bradley collected 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. What stands out is Bradley’s four more assists than normal. Odom predicted that going into the game. 

“He’s a good passer too, you have to give Bradley credit. He understands that if you’re going to load up on him and try to put five against the ball, he’s going to pass to his teammates,” Odom said. 

Another factor to consider is San Deigo State’s homecourt advantage. Similar to the hostile environment the Aggies faced last week at Wyoming, the Aztec faithful are known to make playing at Viejas Arena difficult. In fact, the Aggies have lost six straight in San Diego and Utah State’s only win there was in 1998 before either team was in the Mountain West. 

“It’s fun to play in those types of environments,” Odom said. “It’s fun to win in those types of environments. I think our guys are certainly excited about that. They know the history of the two schools and they know we’re in for a tough challenge to go in there and win.”

The Aggies have good news on the injury front this week. Guard Brock Miller took a step forward with his injury recovery recently. He practiced with the team on Monday, but will not play against the Aztecs. 

“He’s beginning to work his way back in there and we’ll see kind of when he’ll appear. We’re not sure yet,” Odom said. 

The action at Viejas Arena will start at 8 p.m. MST. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the game. 

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