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Big West Notebook

December 11, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Big West Conference Notebook

by Shaan Hassan

Advantage Aggies

Apparently, Utah State doesn’t need point guard Tony Brown after all. The Aggies have raced out to a 5-1 start in this 2002-03 season. The team has now reached one of their best starts in 33 years-and it’s come quite easily. The Aggies have earned their wins with 15, 34, 3, 12 and 11-point margins. Granted, they have come against teams such as Illinois State and Whitman College, but it’s the good teams that put away the weaker ones. Their upcoming test is Dec. 14 against BYU.

So far thus season, senior forward and conference MVP hopeful Desmond Penigar has led the team with 15.2 points per game to go with 5.3 rebounds, good enough for second on the team. Second on the team in scoring is junior guard Mark Brown with 13.8 points per game as he leads with 4.3 assists.

If there is any bad fruit in the garden they’re growing, it’s the fact that Penigar has been too busy shooting the ball and not passing it. He has two total assists in the team’s six games to go with nine turnovers. But as a team, the Aggies have 91 assists and 72 turnovers, which is exceptionally well for a collegiate team. Defensively, Utah State has forced 89 turnovers to just 66 assists.

Clearly, the Aggies are no fluke. They have gotten off to this fast start with solid defense and good ball control. While much of the attention thus far has gone to UC Santa Barbara, the defending conference champions, and UC Irvine, a team trying to cope without Jerry Green, it’s Utah State which has snuck under everyone’s radar to grab first place in the conference.

At this rate, it won’t only be the scores that’ll be a blowout, but also their conference lead. Let me predict it now in December: Utah State upsets UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament-if you would call it an upset.

Big West Going Topsy-Turvy

In the land of the Big “Man” West, it’s the Idaho Vandals who have just three players above 6-5 and were expected to finish in the bottom of the conference, who are currently in fourth place with a 3-2 record. They’re doing it with defense and fitness. The Vandals are allowing 37 percent shooting from their opponents, 25 percent from behind the arc and are getting 6.6 steals per game to go with 4.2 blocks. In addition, when most teams tire in the second half, Idaho turns on their jets and uses their small size and quickness to their advantage, running circles around their opponents to outscore them by 20 points.

I’ve never believed in “expert” analysis, but clearly I’m not even close to being one. Obviously preseason hype is about as useful as a turtleneck to Britney Spears. This Hoopville columnist expected Idaho to finish last of 10 teams (currently in fourth), UC Riverside to finish seventh (now in last), Utah State to end third (they’re clearly number one) and UCSB to complete the season in first (as of now they’re fifth). My disappointing team of the season, CSUN? They’re in second. My surprise team of the season, Fullerton? They’re third to last. The only team to make me seem somewhat intelligent is Pacific who has fallen into that sixth spot I thought they would be in.

The only thing I know right now is that the Aggies are the best team in the conference. I’ll let the other experts figure out the rest in this topsy-turvy conference that would make a drunk on New Year’s Day seem able to walk a tight rope.

Utah State’s Brown Named Conference Player of the Week

There’s still a Brown in Utah that’s leading the Aggies, but it’s not Tony. Junior guard Mark Brown was honored as the Hawai’I-Hilo tournament’s most valuable player, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, and sequentially, was named Big West Conference Player of the Week, Dec. 2. During the tournament, Brown averaged 14.7 points, six assists and nearly two steals per game as the Aggies swept all three games. Brown also shot 48 percent from the field and earned double-doubles in each game in addition to being 4-4 from behind the arc and 14-14 from the free throw line.


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