After a week off to rest, recover and prepare for the final week of the regular season, Utah State now begins what is likely its biggest week so far. The Aggies are clinging to at-large NCAA Tournament bid hopes by the final threads, but alongside that, doors have opened for USU to move up in the standings if it goes 2-0 this week. The big matchup comes on Saturday, but overlooking opponents is the last thing the Aggies can afford and so must focus on UNLV.
How to watch
- Tip-off: 9 p.m. MT
- Location: Thomas & Mack Center | Las Vegas, NV
- TV Broadcast: CBS Sports Network
- Aggie GameDay Coverage on KVNU (102.1 FM/610 AM & KVNU mobile app): 8 p.m. MT
- KVNU Aggie Call (102.1 FM/610 AM, KVNU mobile app): Immediately after game ends
G – Rylan Jones (Undisclosed) – OUT
Jones has missed the last 13 games. Utah State has not disclosed the nature of the injury though USA Today reports the senior has concussion-like symptoms. No timetable has been provided for a return.
G – Luis Rodriguez (Undisclosed) – QUESTIONABLE
G – Elijah Parquet (Knee) – OUT
F – Isaiah Cottrell (Foot) – OUT
Rodriguez, UNLV’s third-leading scorer has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. He reportedly returned to practice on Feb. 28.
Utah State (22-7, 11-5, 4th in MW)
- G – Steven Ashworth (6-1, Jr.) – 15.9 points | 3.4 rebounds | 4.5 assists
- G – Max Shulga (6-4, Jr.) – 11.9 points | 4.5 rebounds | 4.0 assists
- G/F – Sean Bairstow (6-8, Sr.) – 10.6 points | 4.9 rebounds | 2.6 assists
- F – Taylor Funk (6-9, Gr.) – 13.2 points | 5.4 rebounds | 1.8 assists
- C – Trevin Dorius (7-0, Sr.) – 6.1 points | 3.8 rebounds | 0.2 assists
- 6th Man – Dan Akin (6-9, Gr.) – 12.0 points | 7.1 rebounds | 0.8 assists
UNLV (17-11, 6-10, 7th in MW)
- G – Elijah Harkless (6-3, Sr.) – 18.4 points | 5.1 rebounds | 3.3 assists
- G – Justin Webster (6-3, Sr.) – 7.9 points | 2.2 rebounds | 1.0 assists
- G – Keshon Gilbert (6-4, So.) – 12.1 points | 4.0 rebounds | 3.3 assists
- F – Shane Nowell (6-6, So.) – 4.7 points | 2.6 rebounds | 0.9 assists
- C – David Muoka (6-10, Sr.) – 4.9 points | 4.6 rebounds | 0.4 assists
Team Statistical Ranks
Stats and ratings are from Basketball Reference (except the NET ranking). All ranks are out of 363 Division I teams.
- Pace – 68.9 (157th)
- Offensive Rating – 113.2 (20th)
- Defensive Rating – 101.1 (170th)
- Field Goal % – 47.8 (30th)
- 3-point % – 40.0 (2nd)
- Rebounding % – 53.1 (50th)
- NET Rank – 30th
- Pace – 70.1 (88th)
- Offensive Rating – 105.4 (157th)
- Defensive Rating – 97.3 (80th)
- Field Goal % – 43.9 (224th)
- 3-point % – 34.8 (159th)
- Rebounding % – 48.1 (301st)
- NET Rank – 90th
Utah State will come into this game well-rested after not playing a game for nine days. The break is something head coach Ryan Odom said was “much-needed.”
“We had a tough stretch,” Odom said. “Guys were a little bit tired and winded and in need of a little bit of a break. Gave them a few days off after Wyoming and got back at it after that.”
The Runnin’ Rebels just managed to end a three-game losing streak by beating Air Force at home. That win, along with ending a three-game losing streak overall, ended a two-game losing streak at home. UNLV is curiously in the bottom half of the conference in terms of record in home games. The Rebels are 9-6 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the fifth-worst home record in the conference and worst among Mountain West teams that have a winning record.
Even if playing at home is only a slight boost, it could be enough since UNLV lost to the Aggies by just four points, 75-71, in the very-hard-to-play-in Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. That fact highlights a point Odom made about UNLV. Even though the Rebels have been up-and-down this season, they’re not to be overlooked.
“They’re really competitive in every game they’ve played,” Odom said. “They’ve had chances to come out with victories. Played really well at Boise the other night, had a great win at Wyoming which we know is a tough place to play.”
UNLV’s losses have come despite a solid identity and great potential. The Rebels didn’t start the season 10-0 for nothing.
“When you look at their team, immediately you think about the athleticism, the ability to play in the open court in transition,” Odom said. “The ability to put pressure on your rim and get in. Getting inside of your defense. And then you think about the pressure defense…the pressure defense is really tough to deal with.”
That pressure defense Odom mentioned was indeed really tough for the Aggies to deal with. In the previous matchup the Rebels stole the ball from USU 14 times with the Aggies committing a season-high 21 turnovers on the night. It kept UNLV in the game despite Utah State shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 44.0 percent from three.
Elijah Harkless headlines the Rebels’ efforts, averaging 18.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists, but it wasn’t a big night from Harkless that gave Utah State trouble last time out. UNLV got 38 points from its bench (only 13 for the Aggies) including 19 from Keyshawn Hall. Jordan McCabe also had a solid night off the bench, tying a career-high five 3-pointers made. Harkless wound up with just two points on 1-of-5 shooting, spending much of the game on the bench due to foul trouble.
One game-time decision (or at least revealed around game-time) to watch for will be the availability of Luis Rodriguez. The senior wing is the team’s third-leading scorer at 11.2 points per game and its top rebounder (5.5) and steal-getter (1.9). He reportedly returned to practice for the first time on Tuesday, which could make him more likely to appear against the Aggies.