Bulldogs put new ranking on the line against Aggies

Aiming for their 20th win of the season, the Utah State Aggies have a tough test in front of them as they clash with 25th- ranked Louisiana Tech in Western Athletic Conference play at the Thomas Assembly Center.

USU, which has been one of the more dominant teams in this conference the last several years, has had to deal with some serious injuries and setbacks during the 2012-13 campaign which in turn has the Aggies chasing several other teams in the league for bragging rights. However, when and if the Aggies finally tally that next win this season, it will mark the 14th year in a row that USU has achieved the feat, something that has been accomplished by only five other Division I programs.

Taking a break from conference play last weekend, the Aggies scored their second win in the last three outings with an 80-71 triumph over Illinois State at home.

As for the Bulldogs, they find themselves included in the top-25 for the first time in nearly three decades when the great Karl Malone was still delivering for Louisiana Tech during a 13-week stretch back in 1984-85. With Memphis losing on Tuesday night, LaTech now has the second-longest overall win streak in the country at 16 games, trailing only Akron which is now standing at 19 in a row following a recent road victory versus Ohio University.

The Bulldogs are also one of a rare breed that is still undefeated in conference play (14-0), which ties for the school's all-time record for conference wins in a single season.

Having been out of action now for more than a week, the last time Tech took the floor was against Central Baptist on Feb. 20 when it claimed a lopsided 118-48 victory.

LaTech won the first meeting of the season in Logan back in January by a narrow 51-48 score, which means the all-time series now stands at 14-4 in favor of Utah State.

Down by 11 points in the first half, the Aggies brought about a 22-point swing versus Illinois State at home last weekend in order to secure the nine-point win. Jarred Shaw registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Spencer Butterfield with 16 points, TeNale Roland 13 off the bench and Marvin Jean 10 points, although the latter shot just 3-of-12 from the floor. Filling up his state line was Marcel Davis with nine points, eight assists, six rebounds and a couple of steals.

At this point in time the Aggies have just two active double-digit scorers in Shaw (14.2 ppg) and Butterfield (12.2 ppg), mainly because both Preston Medlin (16.3 ppg) and Kyisean Reed (12.1 ppg) have been lost to injury and the team was already operating with a short bench. More than anything else, USU has been leaning on the defense to do most of the hard work, holding foes to just 62.7 ppg on the campaign.

The Bulldogs opened their meeting against Central Baptist with a 13-0 run and never looked back, but it is hard to believe the team was still capable of winning by a staggering 70 points. Only one player for LaTech played more than 20 minutes and still there were a total of seven players who scored in double figures during the onslaught, led by Raheem Appleby with 15 points in 13 minutes of action. Isaiah Massey and Kenyon McNeail both tallied 12 points, Stojan Gjuroski and Michale Kyser 11 each, followed by Cordarius Johnson and Gilbert Talbot with 10 points apiece, the latter also clearing a team-best 11 rebounds as the squad crushed the visitors 68-37 on the glass.

Even with the massive effort in the last game, the Bulldogs are still averaging just 73.9 ppg on the season, outscoring the competition by 12.0 ppg. Appleby is actually the only player in double figures through 27 games with his 14.7 ppg, as LaTech also goes hard at the defensive end of the floor like the Aggies. At this stage, foes have converted only 28.3 percent of their 3- point tries against the Bulldogs and are averaging almost 18 turnovers per game.