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Utah State Looking To Make Splash In MWC Tournament

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Utah State put together a regular season that saw them earn a share of the Mountain West championship, and net multiple postseason conference awards.

They sit at 25-6 overall, and 15-3 in conference play going into the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

Questions still linger for this USU team, however. Where they’ve entered the previous MWC tournaments as the hunter, the Aggies now play the role of the hunted.

Despite that, head coach Craig Smith remains optimistic. “We’re 5 and a half months into this thing,” Smith told reporters after practice in Las Vegas. “There’s not much we haven’t seen.” He added, “We’re going to play Aggie basketball. We’re going to share the ball, we’re going to defend like crazy, really get great ball movement and do our thing.”

Third Time’s A Charm

The Aggies will face New Mexico in the quarterfinals, after the Lobos knocked off Wyoming in the tournament’s first round, 78-68. Utah State beat UNM both times the teams met this year, 71-55 at home, and a 68-66 thriller in Albuquerque.

But can the Aggies make it three in a row against New Mexico? “At this point, there aren’t a whole lot of secrets,” said Smith. “They know us inside-out and backwards, we know them inside-out and backwards. We’re going to do what we do with our scouting reports, we’re going to play in attack mode with what we’re doing on the offensive end, and put out our best effort with how we play.”

First Time In The Thomas And Mack

For many of the Aggies, this will be the first time playing in the Thomas and Mack Center, the home arena of UNLV. This is due to a scheduling anomaly in the Mountain West, one they can’t avoid with 11 teams in the conference. For MWC teams, they miss playing one specific team on the road every year. For the 2018-19 Utah State Aggies, that team was UNLV.

“Six of the 12 guys on our team are freshman,” Smith commented. “Today, that was the first time for six of our guys to see their arena in person. But it is what it is, it’s still 10-feet high, like they say in ‘Hoosiers’.”

Utah State will see if they can overcome the challenges that await them in the conference tournament starting Thursday vs. New Mexico. The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. and can be seen on CBS Sports Network.