USU prepares for another in-state rivalry test and former Aggie Koby McEwen – Cache Valley Daily

OGDEN, Utah – The Aggies (7-3) will face off against in-state rival Weber State (9-1) in their second and final away game inside the beehive state. Utah State is looking for their third win in a row over the Wildcats and their first win at the Dee Events Center since 2015. The Aggies have won 10 of the last 13 contests.

Weber State trounced Maine Fort Kent last time out, 82-36. The Wildcats’ only loss on the season came last week in Pullman, Washington. They fell to Washington State 94 to 60.

The Wildcats are known for their quick-paced offense, especially in transition. They create chances off of steals, forcing 9.1 per game, among other turnovers to score a blazing 20.4 points off of turnovers per game.

I don’t know that we’ve seen a team in transition that plays this fast yet. We’ve got two in a row here that play really fast in transition,” Odom said. “It will be a good test for us.”

Weber State also gets to the charity stripe often. They average 15.1 free throws per game compared to the Aggies’ 12.8.

“(We’ll try) limiting their ability to get to the free-throw line. They get fouled a ton. That’s gonna be a huge factor in the game,” Odom said.

One Wildcat to watch out for is guard Koby McEwen. The former Aggie transferred to Marquette and then Weber State following his freshman and sophomore years at Utah State. McEwen was named Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year in 2017 as an Aggie.

They’ve got a dynamic point guard who… our fans will know in Koby McEwen. He’s gotten off to a fabulous start,” Odom said. “We certainly are going to have to deal with him among other players.”

McEwen averages 15.6 points, 1.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He’s also played at least 20 minutes in every game this season, averaging 31.6 minutes per game.

Forward Dillon Jones has impressed for the Wildcats early this season. He put up a career-high 19 points in a win over Ball State earlier this season. He’s also recorded six double-doubles, tied for fifth-most in the nation. Jones averages a double-double on the year with 12.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

“He’s a matchup problem. He’s a guy that can get to the basket, a guy that can finish. Certainly, a guy that gets fouled,” Odom said.

The Wildcats also have the capability to switch up the lineup frequently. They have the personnel to give the Aggies several different looks when Weber State’s on offense.

“We’ve guarded teams like that so far this season that have played very small. We’ve guarded teams that have played really big. So I think we’ve kind of seen the full gambit,” Odom said.

Weber State is led by Randy Rahe who’s in his 16th year as Weber State’s head coach. Rahe was an assistant coach at Utah State from 1998 to 2004 under former Aggie head coach Stew Morrill. Rahe’s record against the Aggies is 4-12.

This matchup will be Utah State’s second in-state rivalry game of the year. It will also be their final in-state contest. Coach Odom said he would like to play more in-state rivalry games, but that early-season neutral site games help prepare the Aggies for conference and postseason play as well.

“Basketball is good, very strong in our state right now… As you’re trying to make the NCAA Tournament, those games don’t hurt you,” Odom said. “You’ve got four games right there with four teams that are in close proximity that are all potential NCAA Tournament teams, at least early in the season. I like the rivalry games, I’m all for it, but at the same time the neutral site games are important to us as well.”

The game will be the Aggies’ second road game this year. They lost their first one last week at Brigham Young 82 to 71. Coach Odom hopes to even out their away record at 1-1.

“Excited about the opportunity to play in another hostile environment and get another go at it,” Odom said. “We encourage all Aggie fans to come down, it’s so close. We’d love to have as many in the building as we can get.”

Forward Justin Bean will try to tie Utah Valley’s center Fardaws Aimaq for most double-doubles in the nation. Bean’s seven double-doubles have him tied for second place in the country with Fordham forward Chuba Ohams and Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe. Bean is sixth in the nation in defensive rebounds per game with eight per game.

Guard Rylan Jones is also on national leaderboards. His 11 assists against New Orleans propelled him to 9th in the nation in total assists, tied with three other student-athletes. Jones is 12th in the nation in assists per game, tied with Baylor guard James Akinjo.

The Aggies will be down a man against the Wildcats. Guard Sean Bairstow injured a finger against New Orleans. The injury broke the skin which required eight stitches. Coach Odom said the finger was not fractured, but they’ll have to wait for the stitches to heal before he can get back in action.

“That is a huge, huge plus for us that we dodged a bullet there… We’ll probably evaluate prior to the next game again and just kind of see where he’s at, but you will not see him against Weber State,” Odom said.

The Aggies will face a tough Iowa squad later this week, but for now, coach Odom said the focus is on Weber State.

“They’re all in preparation for (a) tough Mountain West Conference. We look at it as the next game on our schedule against a tough opponent and we’re going to do our best to come out with a victory,” Odom said.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. MST and will be televised on KJZZ.

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