With only one exhibition under their belts, the Aggies have already seen some stark front-court differences from last season.
On paper, more size looked good for Utah State. Now in practice, the basketball team is showing just how well it might work, even if there were a few execution issues on offense.
"We did a lot of good things," senior Kyisean Reed said. "Some guys are still getting used to the scheme, but we played hard on defense. We just found ways to keep that intensity up."
Headed into its last exhibition against Simon Fraser on Saturday, the Aggies will continue to hone their new-look front post game, which will feature 6-foot-10 Jarred Shaw at the center position.
Even in its exhibitions last year, Utah State never outrebounded a team by 17 boards. But after coming up with that margin in a 76-44 win against Grand Canyon, the Aggies are hopeful that newfound size in the middle of the floor will keep those kind of numbers going.
"When [Jarred] or [Jordan] Stone rolls, you can just replace him in the high post," sophomore Ben Clifford says. "Those guys get double-teamed inside a lot, so it's a lot easier for us to get offensive rebounds and not have to worry about banging with someone else for the ball."
Utah State ranked only No. 5 in rebounding margin in the WAC last season, averaging less than a board per game more than its opponents. With Shaw and Stone, plus Matt Lopez joining on at the end of the semester, the added length should help the Aggies outreach and outbox smaller teams.
The price of that added physicality and scrum in the middle, however, is fouls. Both Stone and Clifford were forced to sit early in the second half with four fouls apiece.
Clifford said part of that was early-season flubs that will eventually be corrected, such as moving screens.
"It's definitely a concern, but fouls shouldn't be a big issue," Clifford said. "We can clean them up while still being intense."
The other work in progress is offense in general up front. For the game, the centers and power forwards were 9-for-21, only 42 percent. That included a 1-for-6 performance from Reed, who led the WAC in field-goal percentage last year.
As early-season jitters shake out, expect the shooting numbers to go up.
"I missed a lot of easy shots in that game," Reed says. "We just have to see more improvement in our execution. I'll make more of those next time."
Simon Fraserat Utah State
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.