Brandon Horvath. Photo by Tina Lerohl
LAS VEGAS — No. 7 seed Utah State (18-14) will face No. 2 seed Colorado State (24-4) in the quarterfinal round of the Mountain West Basketball Championship tonight.
“We know we’re facing a team that’s dynamite,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “Colorado State has had an awesome season.”
The Rams have gotten the best of the Aggies twice this season. Earlier this year at Colorado State, Utah State fell by five. In the Spectrum, just under two weeks ago, the Rams won it by 11.
“We had two pretty close games with them,” Odom said. “One just a week and a half ago where we had some opportunities, but they were experienced down the stretch and really did a nice job of finishing us off. We know it’s going to be really difficult, but we’re excited that we’re going to have another opportunity.”
The Aggies’ 83-56 win over Air Force yesterday gave them a berth to this game. The dominant fashion Utah State did it in allowed them to rest starters in the final minutes. The rest may prove crucial against a Colorado State team that has not played in five days.
“Certainly it is a factor,” Odom said. “Part of it is legs and your body, but it also has to be your mind. This time of year, it’s all about fresh legs and fresh minds and being able to go for it. That’s certainly our plan.”
Historically, the Aggies have never lost to the Rams in the Mountain West tournament. Utah State holds a 3-0 advantage with the most recent Aggie victory coming in last year’s tournament semifinal. Despite Colorado State sweeping the season series this year, the Aggies have won seven of the last 10 against the Rams.
Additionally, this tournament is the second time Utah State has been the seventh seed in the Mountain West. They went 2-1 in 2018 ultimately falling in the semifinal round to New Mexico. In Mountain West tournament history, one No. 7 seed, 2005-06 Wyoming, has advanced to the championship game. The Cowboys lost to San Diego State in the final.
Despite an injury in practice last week, guard Steven Ashworth seemed in good form against Air Force. He totaled 11 points, six assists and two steals in 26 minutes yesterday.
“He looked pretty normal to me,” Odom said. “He practiced the last couple days right after San Jose. And, Steven’s a warrior. He’s a tough guy. He’s committed to doing everything he can to take care of his body and he’s going to get in there and fight for position… It was great to see him back out there.”
Guard Brock Miller also played after missing last week’s game at San Jose State. He was held scoreless in 16 minutes of play but grabbed a rebound and had two assists. His solid defense and assists on offense gave him a plus-eight for the game.
“Great to see Brock back out there,” Odom said. “I thought Brock made some nice plays for us.”
One more thing to consider in tonight’s contest is forward Justin Bean. He needs two rebounds to become the second player in Mountain West history and the third player in Utah State history to grab 1,000 career rebounds.
Tonight’s game tips off at 7 p.m. MST and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.