How to watch, projected starters, injuries – Cache Valley Daily

Photo by Lorene Hale

LOGAN – Utah State barely skated by Utah Tech in its last game and while the Aggies came out victorious, they didn’t come out unscathed. USU will be down its starting point guard as it heads to California to take on the highest-rated opponent of the season on a “neutral” court. San Francisco will test Utah State in every way from depth to defense. Should the Aggies leave the Bay Area still undefeated it’d be the most impressive feat by the team to date.

How to watch

  • Tip-off: 6:30 p.m. MT
  • Location: Chase Center | San Francisco, CA
  • Broadcast: WCC Network
  • Aggie GameDay Coverage on KVNU (102.1 FM/610 AM & KVNU mobile app): 5:30 p.m. MT
  • KVNU Aggie Call (102.1 FM/610 AM, KVNU mobile app): Immediately after game ends


Utah State

G – Rylan Jones – OUT (Concussion)

Jones left Thursday’s game after being struck inadvertently in the face. He looked visibly dazed and Ryan Odom confirmed the senior suffered a concussion on the play. Odom said Jones would be out Sunday, adding “we don’t know how long” Jones will be sidelined.

San Francisco

No reported injuries

Projected Starters

Utah State (6-0)

  • G – Steven Ashworth (6-1, Jr.) – 20.3 points | 3.0 rebounds | 5.2 assists
  • G – Max Shulga (6-4, Jr.) – 11.5 points | 6.2 rebounds | 4.8 assists
  • G/F – Sean Bairstow (6-8, Sr.) – 7.5 points | 4.3 rebounds | 1.2 assists
  • F – Taylor Funk (6-9, Gr.) – 18.5 points | 8.8 rebounds | 2.8 assists
  • C – Trevin Dorius (7-0, Sr.) – 4.2 points | 3.2 rebounds | 0.2 assists
  • 6th Man – Dan Akin (6-9, Gr.) – 12.8 points | 8.2 rebounds | 0.8 assists

San Francisco (7-1)

  • G – Tyrell Roberts (5-11, Sr.) – 13.8 points | 3.5 rebounds | 2.5 assists
  • G – Khalil Shabazz (6-1, Sr.) – 15.3 points | 5.0 rebounds | 4.3 assists
  • G – Julian Rishwain (6-5, Jr.) – 6.5 points | 2.8 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F – Josh Kunen (6-8, Jr.) – 6.6 points | 5.0 rebounds | 1.0 assists
  • C – Saba Gigiberia (7-1, Jr.) – 4.8 points | 4.5 rebounds | 0.9 assists
  • 6th Man – Zane Meeks (6-9 Jr.) – 11.9 points | 6.4 rebounds | 0.9 assists

Team Statistical Ranks

Stats and ratings are from Basketball Reference (except the KenPom ranking). All ranks are out of 363 Division I teams.

Utah State

  • Pace – 73.5 (45th)
  • Offensive Rating – 117.1 (16th)
  • Defensive Rating – 99.8 (219th)
  • Field Goal % – 49.9 (24th)
  • 3-point % – 46.7 (1st)
  • Rebounding % – 54.9 (45th)
  • KenPom Rank – 53rd

San Francisco

  • Pace – 72.9 (63rd)
  • Offensive Rating – 105.8 (145th)
  • Defensive Rating – 93.5 (100th)
  • Field Goal % – 43.7 (226th)
  • 3-point % – 33.2 (221st)
  • Rebounding % – 53.5 (88th)
  • KenPom Rank – 93rd

San Francisco is the highest-rated team Utah State has played this year, at least according to the KenPom rankings. The Dons are the first team USU will play that rank inside the top 100 of KenPom. This is also just the second game the Aggies will play away from the Spectrum. And while it’s technically a neutral site game, it will take place a mere 23-minute drive away from the campus of the University of San Francisco.

The Aggies just came off a game where they allowed a dynamic guard to go off for 29 points and they won’t get any respite in terms of the level of talent in front of them. Tyrell Roberts and Khalil Shabazz are a very solid backcourt with Shabazz leading the team in scoring at just over 15 points per game. Shabazz is a two-way threat as he also averages 2.6 steals per game, good for 12th in the country.

“(San Francisco) provides a ton of challenges because they’re so fast,” Odom said. “They’re so crafty on offense. They shoot it well. And then defensively they cause havoc and really steal the ball, in particular Shabazz. He’s elite.”

Odom compared the Dons to last year’s USU teams in a couple of different ways including style.

“We’ve told our team it’s very similar to playing our team last year,” Odom said. “They have skill at all five positions. They play a very similar style to the way that we played last year. So we’re familiar with it.”

San Francisco also holds similarity to this year’s Aggie team in that it has a 7-footer starting at center, Saba Gigiberia, that yields most of the actual game minutes to reserve bigs. Zane Meeks is the main reserve center and while he’s similar to USU’s Dan Akin, a key difference is that Meeks stretches the floor – at least in theory. Meeks is attempting nearly five 3-pointers per game but has made just 25.6 percent of them so far.

A big area of focus for the Aggies is 3-point defense. After holding their first three opponents to 28.1 percent from deep, USU has allowed the rest of its foes to make 48.1 percent of their threes. Utah State now ranks 346th (of 363 teams) in the country in 3-point field goal defense this year.

“We’ve got to be more intense,” Odom said. “We were early in the season, the first couple of games. But then we’ve gotten away from that. We can’t be just content to trade baskets with folks. We’ve got to be more intense and intentional in getting stops and moving as the basketball moves around the perimeter.”

One major challenge for Utah State will be taking on this tough foe without the services of Rylan Jones at point guard. Not only is the senior guard a captain, one of the team’s top defenders and its best facilitator, it also means the Aggies will have a paper-thin point guard rotation. Steven Ashworth is more than capable of filling the starting role, but behind Ashworth there is no active player with point guard experience. Max Shulga is likely the only player capable of spot time at the point and may have to fill that role should Ashworth need a breather or face foul trouble.

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