Aggie basketball looking for first-ever Mountain West win in Laramie

#14 Jalen Moore

LOGAN – Laramie hasn’t been kind to the Utah State basketball team.

USU is 0-3 at Wyoming since joining the Mountain West in 2013, and the games haven’t been close. The three losses have come by at least 17 points each. Last year got especially ugly. Wyoming hit a school-record 20 3-pointers on its way to a 76-53 victory.

The Aggies have won other games against the Pokes since joining the conference, just not in Wyoming.

USU is hoping to an end to the streak and will try to improve on its 2-2 conference record when the team travels to Laramie for a Wednesday night game. Wyoming has a 1-2 conference mark, but is a perfect 9-0 at home this season.

Head coach Tim Duryea believes Wyoming will try to attack the same way it did last year: with a bunch of 3-point shots. Wyoming’s leading scorer from that game, guard Jason McManamen, will be back. Duryea said he thinks McManamen is the league’s best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter.

“That’s how they try to attack you, from the 3-point line and they spread you out,” he said. “They can put five 3-point shooters on the floor at one time and get your defense spread out. When they do that they can drive by you.”

McManamen averages 13.5 points per game, but the team’s leading scorer comes off the bench. Sophomore guard Justin James is averaging 16 points per game while averaging less than 25 minutes. Junior forward Hayden Dalton, who is averaging more points per game than everyone except James and McManamen is also coming off the bench. Duryea said he thinks Dalton and James could be Wyoming’s two best all-around players.

“(Dalton) gets almost nine rebounds per game in under 30 minutes,” Duryea said. “He’s very active when he comes in the game. Why (Dalton and James) come off the bench, I’m not sure about that.”

Duryea said Wyoming has adjusted to Josh Adams’ departure by spreading the ball around more. He said Wyoming will play man defense, but will also do some zone.

Duryea is planning on sticking with freshmen Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen as the starting guards. He said it has only been two games, but he has liked what he has seen.

“Sam (Merrill), being more of a ball mover with ball being in his hands less, I think it has really helped Koby (McEwen) and Jalen (Moore),” Duryea said. 

The two common opponents between Wyoming and USU have been Air Force and UNLV. Utah State beat UNLV at home by 16, but lost to Air Force on the road by five. The Cowboys won by 12 at home against Air Force but lost on the road to UNLV by six. Duryea said Wyoming’s loss to UNLV surprised him.

“I thought that would be a good matchup for Wyoming in terms of the way they shoot the ball,” he said. “So that loss was a little confounding, but three games is too small of a sample size there. They are a very good team. They were playing really well right before the league started.”

The game will tip of at 7 p.m. and will be the first of a two-game road trip. The following game will be at San Diego State Saturday.

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