WAC basketball • New Mexico State boasts huge frontline.
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It takes a mammoth of a man to make 6-foot-11 Jarred Shaw look like a runt.
On Thursday, Utah State will face one of the few teams who has that kind of player. At 7-foot-5 and 355 pounds, freshman center Sim Bhullar is a load in the paint for New Mexico State. And he'll be one of the focal points as USU faces a rare size disadvantage.
"We have to game-plan," Shaw said Tuesday after practice. "They play a lot of different guys, they post a lot of different guys. They have a guy who is one of the biggest humans I've ever seen with my eyes."
Bhullar, averaging 13 points per game since entering the starting lineup, is merely one member of NMSU's active frontcourt. The "other" Aggies have a 6.8 rebounding margin, and average nearly five blocks per game.
Last season, Utah State was run out of its home court when NMSU went on a 15-3 run in the final four minutes of the game for an 80-69 win. New Mexico State also had a 20-point win in Las Cruces last season, dominating Utah State on the board in both affairs.
Rebounding has come along for Utah State this year, and the team still has a healthy plus-8.7 margin on the boards. But with Shaw and 6-foot-7 Kyisean Reed both going against taller guys, cleaning the glass could be a bit of a challenge again, especially on the road.
New Mexico State is merely the first opponent in a challenging two-week stretch that pits Utah State against the best of the Western Athletic Conference. Reed said the team knows getting out to a good start is critical.
"It's probably the most important two weeks of WAC play," he said. "We have the top half of the league. If we want to make a statement, now's the time to make a statement."
This season, it makes a little sense that the bench would be less productive. Mainly because there's less of a bench.
With Utah State down to only 10 active players at the moment, more is being piled on the shoulders of starters.
Still, the recent homestand saw a significant dip in bench production. The reserves contributed only 21 points in the Aggies' most recent three games just 9.4 percent of scoring. In the seven games prior the stretch after Danny Berger left the lineup the Utah State bench accounted for 21.4 percent of the scoring load.
For the season, Utah State averages 20.2 percent of its scoring from its bench. Morrill said Tuesday that he hoped the reserves would punch up their contributions.
"They are practicing very well, so that is the main thing they need to do: carry practice over to the games," he said. "TeNale [Roland] does a lot of really good things in practice, Ben [Clifford] makes some shots, Marvin [Jean] shoots lights out a lot of days. So that would help our team considerably if we could have those guys step up."
Utah State atNew Mexico State
P Thursday, 9 p.m. TV • ESPNU