College basketball • Aggies won't overlook slumping Spartans.
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Logan • When Utah State was at its worst, it always seemed like Spencer Butterfield was at his best.
Even in the face of defeat, the junior has been hustling for rebounds, hassling shooters on defense and always, always talking up his team. When the Aggies were going through their four-game losing streak, he was the guy players and coaches looked to for leadership.
So it may surprise some who saw him play that Butterfield was new to the experience. At Del Oro High School (Calif.) and Yuba Community College, Butterfield didn't lose too often.
"I was telling the guys I've never been on a team where I lost two games in a row," he said. "And so it was kind of crazy losing four games I just don't know what it feels like."
For now, the Aggies (16-5, 7-4) have shaken the taste of losing with back-to-back wins. But while they're happy to get back to victories in the Western Athletic Conference, losing, they say, helps keep them vigilant.
For example, they aren't going to overlook a team like San Jose State, which is in a seven-game free-fall after appearing to once be one of the more promising WAC teams.
Coach Stew Morrill is trying to get his players focused for the Spartans, their only opponent this week, by reminding them what mentality a losing team can take into a big game.
"Their losses on the road don't mean anything to us," he said. "It means they're probably more motivated to try and get a win. We aren't playing the previous seven games, we're playing this game Friday."
In Logan, the Spartans gave the Aggies fits even without leading scorer James Kinney, who has now missed every game of the losing streak. Preston Medlin helped deliver a 66-60 win with a season-high 25 points.
Now Medlin's gone, but San Jose's defense is still fairly tough, holding opponents to 40.6 percent from the floor. The Spartans also are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the WAC a stat that made them dangerous in Logan last month.
Utah State is familiar with the kind of motivation being in a slump can inspire. The Aggies can't bring the weak stuff on the road.
"I don't really know how San Jose's looking at it, but we need to respect that they are trying to break the losing streak and get a win like we were," Butterfield said. "I think we showed in our losing streak we were resilient, so we'll try to keep that going."
A glance at San Jose State
• 9-13 record, on a seven-game losing streak starting with the Aggies
• No. 4-ranked FG percentage defense (40.6 percent) and No. 3 ranked 3FG percentage defense (31.4 percent)
• Chris Cunningham one of the WAC's rebounding leaders with 9.0 boards a game
• D.J. Brown leading team in assists with 4.2 per game