Utah State returns its leading scorer and rebounder in senior Jalen Moore, a 6-foot-9-inch wing, but experience will be in short supply for the Aggies this season.
It’s a roster filled with new players, and Utah State was picked by Mountain West media to finish sixth in the conference.
“I like the makeup of the team,” coach Tim Duryea said. “They’re a competitive group. They love to play. They’ve got a high motor collectively. Usually, groups like that get better, and obviously we need to. We have 10 new faces, and yet the returners we have … all very solid players, all contributors last year. So that gives me a pretty good base of kids to lead by example, to lead vocally.
“It’s not a big number (four), but it’s a quality number.”
Moore leads that group, returning after averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 rebounds last season. He is switching from inside to the three spot largely to help the Aggies improve their defense.
Duryea said there will be added emphasis on improving defense after Utah State allowed 71.5 points a game last season, though that ranked fourth in the conference. The Aggies went 16-15, including 7-11 in the Mountain West.
But to Duryea, the concerns go beyond the bottom-line number. In six of the eight victories over Mountain West opponents — including the conference tournament — Utah State allowed under that average. In eight of the 12 losses, the Aggies allowed more than that.
“So we’ve really emphasized that side of the ball early in practice because we have to get better,” Duryea said. “Our bigs are skilled. They’re not quite as athletic as you would like in a perfect world, but they are skilled.”
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Predicted finish in MW: Sixth
Last season: 16-15, 7-11 MW
Coach: Tim Duryea, second season (16-15)
Returning starters/lettermen: 3/4
Top returning scorer: Wing Jalen Moore (15.2)
Top returning rebounder: Wing Jalen Moore (6.0)
Notable nonconference games: at UC Irvine, Nov. 11; vs. Purdue in the Cancun Challenge, Nov. 22; vs. Auburn or Texas Tech in the Cancun Challenge, Nov. 23; vs. Brigham Young at Salt Lake City, Nov. 30