LOGAN — Utah State is coming off one of its most impressive wins of the season, blasting UNLV by 25 points on the road. But the Aggies now face what is now the most important challenge of the season, a rematch with Boise State. The Broncos defeated USU by 23 points in the first meeting back on Jan. 7. Now, 56 days later, the Aggies can avenge that loss and greatly improve their chances to make the NCAA Tournament.
How to watch
- Tip-off: 7 p.m. MT
- Location: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum | Logan, UT
- TV Broadcast: Mountain West Network
- Aggie GameDay Coverage on KVNU (102.1 FM/610 AM & KVNU mobile app): 6 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 14 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 – RJ Keene (Shoulder) – OUT
Utah State (23-7, 12-5, 3rd in MW)
- G – Steven Ashworth (6-1, Jr.) – 16.2 points | 3.3 rebounds | 4.6 assists
- G – Max Shulga (6-4, Jr.) – 12.1 points | 4.5 rebounds | 4.0 assists
- G/F – Sean Bairstow (6-8, Sr.) – 10.5 points | 5.1 rebounds | 2.5 assists
- F – Taylor Funk (6-9, Gr.) – 12.8 points | 5.3 rebounds | 1.7 assists
- C – Trevin Dorius (7-0, Sr.) – 6.1 points | 3.9 rebounds | 0.2 assists
- 6th Man – Dan Akin (6-9, Gr.) – 12.1 points | 7.0 rebounds | 0.8 assists
Boise State (23-7, 13-4, 2nd in MW)
- G – Marcus Shaver (6-2, Sr.) – 13.3 points | 5.9 rebounds | 3.7 assists
- G – Max Rice (6-5, Sr.) – 14.4 points | 4.7 rebounds | 1.7 assists
- G – Tyson Degenhart (6-7, So.) – 14.3 points | 5.3 rebounds | 1.8 assists
- F – Naje Smith (6-7, Sr.) – 9.9 points | 5.6 rebounds | 1.3 assists
- C – Lucas Milner (6-10, Sr.) – 3.0 points | 2.8 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 – 69.0 (153rd)
- Offensive Rating – 113.8 (18th)
- Defensive Rating – 100.9 (156th)
- Field Goal % – 48.3 (22nd)
- 3-point % – 40.2 (2nd)
- Rebounding % – 53.2 (45th)
- NET Rank – 22nd
- Pace – 67.0 (246th)
- Offensive Rating – 106.7 (124th)
- Defensive Rating – 93.2 (20th)
- Field Goal % – 45.5 (130th)
- 3-point % – 36.3 (68th)
- Rebounding % – 52.8 (61st)
- NET Rank – 27th
The schedule-makers certainly saved the best for last as the way the standings have worked out, this matchup has a lot that could be decided by the result — more so for Utah State than perhaps Boise State. The Aggies are still riding thin hopes of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid and a win over the Broncos, which could become USU’s only Quad 1 victory this year, would go quite a ways in adding to those hopes ahead of the conference tournament. Of course, facing a team good enough to be a Quad 1 opponent means a very stiff challenge.
Boise State is a team that has no obvious weaknesses. It has size, shooting, offense and defense. USU head coach Ryan Odom said Boise State does “all the things that you would want your team to do.”
“They play well together. They pass the ball. They defend you at a really high level. They rebound,” Odom said. “They play tough, they play competitively. They play unselfish. And they’re stingy on defense. And when you wrap all those things together you have the makings of a really good team.”
That very good team, second in the Mountain West standings which just defeated San Diego State (the first-place team in the conference) already handed Utah State a loss this season.
Looking back on the previous matchup where the Broncos beat the Aggies by 23 points, Odom said “they punched us and we didn’t respond very well” but added that the previous result doesn’t have any bearing on this game.
“That game doesn’t impact this game at all,” Odom said. “We’ve got to play our game here. We’ve got to play to the best of our ability and compete to the best of our ability with no fear.”
As far as players to watch, one of the biggest will be Max Rice, the Broncos’ leading scorer at 14.4 points per game. Odom said Rice is one of the most improved players in the conference season, also calling him a “well-rounded player.”
“He’s got the ability to get by his man. A lot of that is due to the fact that you do get nervous about his jump shot because he can shoot it from well beyond the arc,” Odom said. “He shoots it really deep so you have to guard him well beyond the three, especially in transition.”
Rice is the top 3-point shooter on the team, making 42.3 percent of his threes on just over five attempts per game. He and Chibuzo Agbo will both be shooters to watch.
Tyson Degenhart is Boise State’s other top player, only a hair behind Rice in points per game (14.3) while also bringing a major inside-outside game to the table. At 6-foot-7 he can finish inside better than most, evidenced by his 54.0 percent shooting.
This game will be Utah State’s senior night and five seniors will be honored starting at about 15 minutes before tip-off. The five players who will receive recognition are Dan Akin, Sean Bairstow, Trevin Dorius, RJ Eytle-Rock and Taylor Funk.
“Really proud of each one of them,” Odom said. “Obviously, each one of them mean a great deal to our team and me personally.”
Two of those five seniors — Bairstow and Dorius — do actually have a year of eligibility they could use due to the COVID-19 year. Neither have yet stated if they plan to move on, but Odom said he didn’t want to risk it and will honor them regardless of the decision those two end up making.