Aggies win exhibition opener but face challenges as season approaches

LOGAN – The Aggie basketball team faces an uphill battle going into the new season. For the majority of the players, Friday night’s exhibition against Texas A&M-Int’l was the first time they stepped out of the Spectrum tunnel for a game. Out of the 15 players on the roster, 11 are new to the team.

Even though the final scoreboard read 77-70 in favor of the Aggies, head coach Stew Morrill said the team isn’t close to being able to compete at a Division I level and that they were fortunate to win.

“We are a long ways away in every phase of the game,” he said. “There are a lot of guys out there trying to figure things out. We’ve got to focus more in practice. We’ve got to get better step by step.”

The Aggies led for the majority of the game, but it was kept close through most of the first half. Utah State gained a comfortable lead with about seven minutes left in the first half that would grow to as many as 16 later on in the game. Texas A&M-Int’l made the game interesting near the end. They hit some big shots and cut the Aggie lead to five with just over a minute to go, but USU hung on to win.

As a team the Aggies were 38.6 percent from the floor and 69.2 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore Jalen Moore led the team in rebounding with seven. Freshman David Collette led in scoring with 23 points, but fouled out near the end.

“I think I was just honestly a little nervous out there,” he said. “It’s been three years since I’ve played a game, since high school.”

Collette said playing the exhibition game was good to help the team find areas for improvement.

“It gives us some confidence,” he said. “We’ve been playing ourselves for a couple of weeks now and it is just good to get out and play other people and see where we stand.”

Senior forward Sean Harris sat out the game. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility, but is now waiting on a different appeal to the NCAA to be able to play. Morrill said they didn’t know he would be ineligible until shortly before the game, but that they are working on getting it fixed.

The Aggies have one more exhibition game next Friday against Arkansas-Fort Smith. After that game, the season begins. Morrill said a lot has to happen in order to have a chance to compete, but added that those things will happen and the team will get better.

“The clock is ticking” Morrill said. “So we’ve got to get better in a hurry.”

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