USU wrapping up three-game home stand by hosting Northwest Nazarene – Cache Valley Daily

LOGAN — The Aggies are reaching an early peak of their season, having attained a seven-game win streak and are a win against a Division II school, Northwest Nazarene, away from getting that streak to eight games.

Obviously, the team hopes this will not be the peak of the year as head coach Danny Sprinkle is taking every possible opportunity to say there’s a lot tougher things coming (and given the NET ranks of fellow Mountain West schools, no one can blame him). But for now, Utah State will have to be content with extending its winning streak and matching last year’s 9-1 start.

The very first time this Aggie team officially played together was against a Division II team, South Dakota Mines. That game went about as well as one could hope, a 53-point victory. Eight games later, USU is shaping into a team with an identity that reflects that game-one dominance — a hard-nosed defensive team with a highly efficient offense.

Utah State has far less to prove in this “buy game,” and for Northwest Nazarene, it’s actually an exhibition on its schedule. But it’s not going to be a game where Sprinkle is going to let up on his team. Even if the score ends up as lopsided as the South Dakota Mines game, Sprinkle expects his team to stick with its principles.

“It’s just like the other night. It’s about us,” Sprinkle said. “We have so much room and so many things that we need to work on and room to grow. We have to worry about us. Obviously, we’re scouting them and we know all their plays and sets and personnel. But at the end of the day, there are some things that we need to clean up. That’s what I’m looking forward to mostly.”

Northwest Nazarene’s main threat is its inside-outside senior duo of guard Tru Allen and forward Gabriel Murphey. The two both average an identical 14.6 points with Allen leading the team in assists (3.3) and Murphy on top in rebounds (9.4).

Murphy, in particular, could cause issues inside the paint, being an efficient post scorer but also a highly proficient put-back artist. In eight games, Murphy has 35 offensive rebounds (4.3 per game) and has scored 48 points on put-back attempts per Synergy Sports.

“You got to put a body on him. He’s a big kid,” Sprinkle said. “There’s a reason he’s averaging 15 points a game. But he does a really good job carving out space down there, and he’s so wide and he’s got great hands. So when he gets his hands on it, he’s either getting fouled or scoring it.”

Allen may struggle to truly burn the Aggie defense with his shooting, he’s currently sitting at a 37.6 field goal percentage (and has a career mark of 35.1), but his tendency to draw free throws will test the USU perimeter defenders. Allen averages 6.9 free throws per game, with four games of nine-plus attempts from the line already under his belt this year.

Despite poor shooting numbers overall for the Nighthawks, Sprinkle said they’re better shooters than the stats say.

“They’re kind of like us,” Sprinkle said. “They’re a better shooting team than they’ve been shooting in games.”

Projected Starters

Utah State (8-1)

  • G – Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 9.9 points | 3.3 rebounds | 7.7 assists

  • G – Mason Falslev (6-3, Fr.) – 12.7 points | 4.8 rebounds | 3.2 assists

  • G – Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 10.1 points | 2.8 rebounds | 1.4 assists

  • F – Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 19.8 points | 9.0 rebounds | 2.8 assists

  • C – Isaac Johnson (7-0, So.) – 7.1 points | 2.7 rebounds | 0.8 assists

Northwest Nazarene (4-4)

  • G – Ryzin Bergersen (6-1, Fr.) – 11.9 points | 3.3 rebounds | 3.1 assists

  • G – True Allen (6-0, Sr.) – 14.6 points | 4.1 rebounds | 3.3 assists

  • G – Jaylen Fox (6-2, Sr.) – 2.1 points | 0.6 rebounds | 1.0 assists

  • F – Christian Rose (6-6, Sr.) – 8.9 points | 5.8 rebounds | 0.3 assists

  • F – Gabriel Murphy (6-9, Sr.) – 14.6 points | 9.4 rebounds | 0.6 assists


Utah State

  • Max Agbonkpolo – Day-to-Day (Foot)

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