SAN JOSE, Calif. — Utah State (16-14, 7-10) finishes the regular season at San Jose State (8-21, 1-16) on Friday night. It will be the 90th meeting between the programs all-time.
“We have to make sure that we’re ready to go,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “It’s a big game for us heading into Las Vegas.”
Friday’s game will be the last chance for the Aggies to grab a win before the Mountain West tournament. Utah State will have to do so without guards Steven Ashworth and Brock Miller.
Ashworth was injured during practice this week. Odom said he will likely not play in San Jose, but he “should be ready for the tournament.”
“Nothing real serious right this second, but it could turn into something over the summer,” Odom said. “Thankfully, we’re at the end of the year. He’ll be shut down kind of at the end of the season and we’ll readjust.”
Miller aggravated an existing back injury during practice and will not travel to San Jose. This decision was not made only for injury, but also because Miller’s wife Bailey delivered their first child this week. Odom said the injury has put Miller’s status for the rest of the season up in the air.
“That doesn’t mean he’s totally done for the year but we’ll see,” Odom said.
The seventh seed in the conference tournament is on the line for the Aggies. Right now, They have the seventh spot over Nevada by one win, but if Utah State loses and Nevada beats San Diego State, the conference will conduct a tie-breaker for the seventh seed. The seventh seed will likely face Air Force in the first round while the eighth seed will likely challenge New Mexico.
In light of this, things look good for Utah State coming into this game. Historically, the Aggies have found success at the Provident Credit Union Event Center in recent years. Their only loss in San Jose in the last 10 years came in 2018.
Earlier this season, Utah State was victorious against the Spartans. The Aggies won 78 to 62 primarily because of the combined performances of forwards Justin Bean and Brandon Horvath. They both recorded double-doubles finishing with a combined 37 points, 22 rebounds and 10 assists.
This time around, San Jose State will have center Ibrahima Diallo. He returned to action against New Mexico on Feb. 20 after recovering from injury. Since then, Diallo has averaged 10.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
“Diallo is a force around the basket,” Odom said. “He catches it deep with angles. He’s going to score or get fouled. He has tremendous size. He can block shots around the rim.”
Diallo’s return has changed San Jose State’s offense by giving them an option in the post instead of relying primarily on small-ball play.
“They are playing a little bit different,” Odom said. “They’re trying to get it inside to Dialo.”fed b
Guard Omari Moore remains the primary scorer for the Spartans. He puts up 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Last time around, the Aggies held him to 10 points, but the team still recognizes his scoring prowess.
“Everything kind of starts with Moore,” Odom said. “Moore is one of the better players in our league. Watching him as a staff and as a group overall, we have a ton of respect for him and his abilities to score going to the basket. He handles the ball extremely well and so he’s not easily bothered. And he’s shown the ability to shoot behind the arc and he shoots the right shots.”
Moore will be a primary focus for the Aggies on defense.
“We have to make things hard on Moore,” Odom said. “Not allow him to get to the rim or create baskets for bigs and their rollers or the guys on the perimeter that he can kick out to for threes. He can be a creator for them.”
Many fans may be looking past this game toward the Mountain West tournament, but Odom made sure to say the team is not.
“Our entire focus right now is just on San Jose State and playing our best in that game and finishing the conference here on a positive note before we head into (Las) Vegas,” Odom said. “We have to worry about ourselves… We have to play with energy. We have to play with enthusiasm for the game. We have to play with the confidence that we should play with. We should have a confident team even though we’ve taken some tough losses.”
The Aggies will attempt to do this in an environment that is opposite of much of the Mountain West. San Jose’s Provident Credit Union Event Center is typically the least-attended venue in the conference and as a result the quietest.
“We’ve played in front of limited crowds this season,” Odom said. “We tell our team all the time, ‘it’s a big game because we’re playing. Because the Aggies are playing.’ That’s all we have to concern ourselves with.”
The action starts at 9 p.m. MST and will be televised on FS1.