Texas Tech basketball: Utah State expert previews the Aggies

Mar 12, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Utah State Aggies center Neemias Queta (23) and guard Steven Ashworth (3) celebrate on the court after defeating the Colorado State Rams at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Utah State Aggies center Neemias Queta (23) and guard Steven Ashworth (3) celebrate on the court after defeating the Colorado State Rams at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /

To gain some insight on the Texas Tech basketball team’s showdown with Utah State, we did a Q&A with Jason Wright of USUFans.com.

Wreck “Em Red: What can we expect stylistically from a Craig Smith-coached team?  Also, what intangibles does his team possess that might make them a tough out in the NCAA Tournament?

Wright: Craig Smith has a team motto of GATA which stands for “Get After Their Asses”. His players play hard from start to finish. He doesn’t tolerate anyone not giving their all at both ends of the floor. He works really hard to find players that fit into this mold but Justin Bean is probably the player that embodies it the most. Ultimately you’ll see us going inside to Queta as much as possible but Queta is also happy to kick it back out for a 3. This team doesn’t play hero ball.

Wreck ‘Em Red: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Utah State Team?

Wright: The biggest strength is our defense. KenPom has our defense ranked 8th in the country. This of course begins with Queta who is the school’s all-time leading blocker with 209 as a Junior. You can try to take it at him but unless he’s in foul trouble he’s probably going to stop you. In our semi-final game with Colorado State he blocked 9 shots as they decided to take it inside.

The biggest weakness is probably 3 point shooting. This team has a lot of youth. Sometimes they shoot well, sometimes they don’t. 3 point shooting percentage has played a big role in our wins and losses as we’ve shot below 33% in all of our losses.

Wreck ‘Em Red: Texas Tech has struggled to defend the 3-point shot this year.  Is this Utah State team capable of exploiting that flaw and who are the Aggie’s best weapons from outside.

As mentioned in the previous point this is going to be a key for Utah State to have a chance in this game. Brock Miller is supposed to be a pure shooter but he hurt his back before the Boise State series and has struggled a bit since then. He’s very streaky but when he starts hitting them he normally doesn’t stop. Alphonso Anderson doesn’t typically score a ton but he’s a very clutch 3 point shooter. Outside of that, we have 2 freshmen in Rollie Worster and Steven Ashworth that can hit them but they haven’t shown up in big situations yet (Steven Ashworth missed all 6 attempts in the MW Tourney). I believe that if USU wants to win this game then 3 point shooting will be key.

Wreck ‘Em Red: Queta is the unquestioned star for USU.  What makes him so dominant?  Also, where might Texas Tech be able to exploit his weaknesses?

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Wright: Queta is the best big man I’ve ever seen at Utah State but this year’s performance has been above and beyond what I expected out of him. On defense, he’s extremely difficult to score on, and on offense, he has great footwork. He’s had struggles with more athletics 7 footers in the past but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem here.

This year he really worked on cleaning up his game and not getting fouls. There are a few different strategies that you can try. Boise State is the only team this year that didn’t really try to double-team him on offense. They let him get his points and focused on shutting down the rest of the team. It worked (although we were also without our starting PG). If you focus on double-teaming him then he has no problem kicking it back out for a 3. He’s mostly known for his blocking and scoring but more than a few times he’s been able to tack on 5 or 6 assists as well. If you do attack him and happen to get him into foul trouble then it’s game over for Utah State.

Wreck ‘Em Red: Besides Queta, who else should Red Raider fans be aware of and why?

Wright: Justin Bean is another one of our bigs that plays with more heart than most players. He started his career as a preferred walk-on before earning a scholarship 2 seasons ago. Last year he was able to average a double-double and even though his stats have slipped a bit this season, he still has nine double-doubles on the year. This is a kid that you’d probably hear a lot more about if he wasn’t in Queta’s shadows but they are a pretty solid tandem.

Marco Anthony is a guard that transferred to USU from Virginia’s national championship team to get more playing time. He’s not one that’s going to score a bunch but he’s a great leader out on the court.

Alphonso Anderson may be the biggest wild card on the team. He’s sometimes a defensive liability but when his scoring is on he’s one of the best players on the floor. He also tends to step up in big situations. Last year he lead a 19 point comeback in Jamaica against LSU. I’m sure you’ve also probably seen our game-winner from the MW Championship game last year by Sam Merrill too but what is often forgotten is that Alphonso Anderson drilled two 3-pointers in a row that put us right back into that game after a large deficit.

Rollie Worster (pronounced like Woo-ster) is a true freshman and was the Montana player of the year. One thing that is often ignored when people discuss the Aggies’ losses to Boise State are that Worster missed those two games with a foot injury.  As a freshman, he’s been a bit inconsistent but he’s been one of the biggest surprises this season starting in 23 of the 25 games this season.

(Thanks again to Jason Wright and for the Utah State perspective on this matchup, you can check out USUFans.com on Twitter.)