Men’s basketball plays in-state rival to open regular season

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BYU and Utah State will engage in their 228th men’s basketball matchup Friday night in Logan. BYU leads the all-time series, which has taken place since 1906, 136-91 and hopes to add another win to that total.

Both teams have played in preseason exhibition games but will now open up their regular seasons.

“I think our guys are excited to play somebody else,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “The first game of the season, there’s always a lot of anticipation.”

Last season, BYU defeated Utah State 78-72 in the Marriott Center. Since last season, former BYU player Jimmer Fredette has left for the NBA, while Utah State’s star player, Tai Wesley, is playing professional basketball in Europe. The Aggies also lost five other players from last year’s team, but senior forward Noah Hartsock doesn’t think that makes this game any easier.

[media-credit name=”Chris Bunker” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]
BYU guard Charles Abouo goes for a layup against Midwestern State guard Keonte' Logan during Saturday's game at the Marriott Center. BYU won 91-74.
“I know that they lost a lot of people but that system, with coach Stew Morrill, he’s not going to waste any time,” Hartsock said. “He’s going to bring a great team in and it’s going to be a competitive atmosphere and a really physical game. We also lost some people, so it’s going to be an interesting game.”

Rose also has a great deal of respect of Utah State coach Morrill and the program he has built.

“Their personnel is different but what they do and how they do it is very similar,” he said. “Stew’s been so successful, there’s not a lot of reason to change.”

In last year’s game between the two schools, Hartsock scored 15 points, including a pair of free throws late in the game that clinched the win for the Cougars. He is also one of the few BYU players who has played in Utah State’s home arena, the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, revered as one of the toughest arenas to play in for visiting teams.

“It’s a tough place to play. It’s a great environment, the student section’s crazy and it’s a good team,” he said. “I’ve never been in an environment where the fans were so in unison, their chants and everything they did. It can be a very intimidating, so it’s something you just have to be aware of. You can’t let it play a huge factor in your game, though.”

Although Rose knows the arena will feature a hostile crowd, he wants his players to focus on Utah State’s basketball team, not its student section.

“I think that you always prepare for the team, the players and the coaches. Then you just have to experience the arena,” he said. “For us, we need to go in and execute and like any other road game get to the position where you can control the score and then the crowd.”

The game tips off Friday at 7 p.m. and can be streamed online at ESPN3.com.

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