LAS VEGAS — Utah State took care of business Thursday night to earn the right to survive and advance. The Aggies’ reward is a rematch with Boise State. The two sides faced less than a week ago, a matchup that went Utah State’s way on the court of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Overall, the season series was split 1-1 with double-digit margins in favor of the home team each time.
How to watch
- Tip-off: 10 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): 9:00 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 16 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
G – Sadraque NgaNga (Illness) – QUESTIONABLE
NgaNga sat out Boise State’s quarterfinal game with an illness. The freshman has appeared sparingly (17 games) for the Broncos this season.
Utah State (25-7, #3 Seed)
- G – Steven Ashworth (6-1, Jr.) – 16.3 points | 3.4 rebounds | 4.7 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 | 2.6 assists
- F – Taylor Funk (6-9, Gr.) – 13.2 points | 5.4 rebounds | 1.7 assists
- C – Trevin Dorius (7-0, Sr.) – 6.1 points | 3.8 rebounds | 0.2 assists
- 6th Man – Dan Akin (6-9, Gr.) – 12.1 points | 6.8 rebounds | 0.9 assists
Boise State (24-8, #2 Seed)
- G – Marcus Shaver (6-2, Sr.) – 13.4 points | 6.0 rebounds | 3.8 assists
- G – Max Rice (6-5, Sr.) – 14.3 points | 4.6 rebounds | 1.8 assists
- G – Chibuzo Agbo (6-7, Jr.) – 11.6 points | 4.8 rebounds | 0.8 assists
- F – Tyson Degenhart (6-7, So.) – 14.4 points | 5.4 rebounds | 1.8 assists
- F – Naje Smith (6-7, Sr.) – 10.0 points | 5.5 rebounds | 1.3 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 – 68.2 (139th)
- Offensive Rating – 114.3 (12th)
- Defensive Rating – 101.0 (159th)
- Field Goal % – 48.6 (15th)
- 3-point % – 40.1 (4th)
- Rebounding % – 53.0 (51st)
- NET Rank – 18th
- Pace – 66.8 (256th)
- Offensive Rating – 112.1 (110th)
- Defensive Rating – 94.8 (32nd)
- Field Goal % – 45.7 (116th)
- 3-point % – 36.6 (60th)
- Rebounding % – 52.8 (59th)
- NET Rank – 26th
When asked whether he thought Utah State had done enough to warrant an NCAA Tournament bid after beating New Mexico, Aggies head coach Ryan Odom said, “We have no idea.”
Friday’s game probably won’t do much to sway Odom’s mind on that matter since the only guarantee for the Aggies can be found in a win Saturday afternoon. But a win today would settle the matter for just about everyone else. Utah State is already nearing being a lock for NCAA Tournament with, as of 1 p.m. Mountain Time, 84 of 93 updated brackets tracked on Bracket Matrix have Utah State currently in the field of 68.
Boise State, on the other hand, is not dealing with the pressure of whether or not it’ll be in the tournament. The Broncos are universally considered a tournament team. They are instead looking to defend their conference tournament title from last year.
Momentum is currently in favor of Utah State. The Aggies are on a six-game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 14.5 points. Those game include wins over Nevada (75-66) and Boise State (86-73). The Broncos, on the other hand, have struggled in their last four games. They are 2-2 in those four games with losses to San Jose State and USU, and in its quarterfinal game barely escaped UNLV after blowing a 22-point lead.
Haslemetrics, who boils down momentum into a number based on the last 4-8 games played by a team, ranks Utah State as 24th in momentum and Boise State 301st.
Momentum alone won’t hand the Aggies victory, but it’ll be comforting for Aggie faithful to know that Utah State is performing at its best — especially the star players. Two of USU’s stars — Steven Ashworth and Taylor Funk — have been on a tear lately.
In the last two games, Funk has 56 total points (24 vs Boise State last Saturday, 32 yesterday against New Mexico). He’s shot 19-for-28 overall including 10-of-16 from three. The 32 points against New Mexico set a new high for any Aggie in a Mountain West Tournament game and is tied for fifth-most among any player in a MWT game.
Ashworth has been in his top form for the last five games. In that stretch he’s averaged 21.4 points, 5.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game. With that level of performance it’s no wonder the Aggies have won six straight games.
Both of these teams are among the best of the best that the Mountain West has to offer. The Aggies are playing their best ball, but the Broncos have been one of the best defensive teams in the country and boast several great scorers who present mismatch problems. A great basketball game is very much in the cards for tonight.