Potential statement win on the line for USU in Delta Center match against San Francisco – Cache Valley Daily

Utah State will face one of the toughest opponents — not just to date but perhaps of the entire season — in the San Francisco Dons. That obviously brings the risk of the Aggies losing its now nine-game winning streak, but also the possibility of a statement win that will be remembered come March.

San Francisco currently sits at No. 50 in the NET, and with this game taking place in Salt Lake City at the Delta Center, it makes this game technically a neutral-site game (much like last year’s game at the Chase Center a neutral-site game despite being within an hour of the Dons’ campus) and games against top 50 opponents qualify as Quad 1 wins, something Utah State doesn’t have yet.

Despite the Dons currently ranking 50th, if the Aggies win, it’ll likely mean the game would become a Quad 2 win, since San Francisco’s rankings would fall above the cut-off for a Quad 1 win (1-50 in the NET) but down the line it could return to Quad 1 game territory.

USU head coach Danny Sprinkle credited San Francisco with being “the best defensive team that we’ve faced so far.” It’s quite the compliment considering some of the great defenses the Aggies have faced, going against Bradley, UC Irvine and Akron. The secret to the Dons’ elite defense — ranked 24th in KenPom — lies in its versatility and, according to Sprinkle, discipline.

“They’re engaged the whole possession,” Sprinkle said. “Their post guys in ball screen defense, they’re as good as there is. And I think that’s the biggest key to their defensive presence. And they make you move the ball, and they make you take a contested, hard shot. And they’re physical, and they’re all athletic. So they have personnel that they’ve recruited to be a great defensive team.”

San Francisco’s versatility comes by way of having a wealth of players that can switch almost anything on the court. Its starting five consists of four players that stand between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8. The length and switchability make the Dons a very tough team to score against.

One player that will need to take advantage of switches and post matchups is forward Great Osobor. In the Aggies’ last game, the junior post had his worst game of the year, making just 3 of 15 shots and committing five turnovers. It was uncharacteristic play for the usually dominant big currently averaging 18.5 points per game and owns the 50th-best field goal percentage in the country at 58.9 percent.

“He’s disappointed with how he played and he was uncharacteristic,” Sprinkle said. “He was going a little too fast and didn’t use his quickness against their size. And I’ve probably got to do a better job putting him in some better positions to ice on him and be able to use his quickness.”

Another of the Aggies’ forwards, Max Agbonkpolo, could become an incredibly important factor in this game. In USU’s matchup with Santa Clara, Agbonkpolo saw significant minutes (a season-high 35) because the Aggies needed his size and rebounding to match what the Broncos were bringing to the table. With San Francisco’s taller-than-average lineup, USU could need to call on Agbonkpolo, who is quickly becoming the team’s top utility wing.

The primary threats coming from San Francisco’s offense are its point guard, Marcus Williams and forward Jonathan Mogbo. Williams leads the team in scoring at just under 17 per game. The 6-foot-2 guard has been successful at multiple levels, having won Freshman of the Year in 2021 at Wyoming (averaging 14.8 points per game) before making his way to San Francisco (with a stop-off at Texas A&M on the way).

Mogbo is the Dons’ main post presence, but is also a highly versatile player. Not only does Mogbo average a double-double with averages of 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds, but is also first or second on the team in assists (3.5), steals (1.5) and blocks (0.9).

Sprinkle said Williams will be “one of the best guards that we’ve faced up to this point” and that Mogbo is an “athletic energy guy” that “fuels” San Francisco.

One small game-within-the-game will be which team is able to control the tempo. San Francisco, as a team with one of the slowest paces in college basketball (295th in KenPom adjusted tempo), will try and slow the game to a crawl. The Aggies aren’t exactly a team to push the tempo (ranking 161st in tempo themselves) but do like to choose their spots to get out and run. The key to that will be doing a lot of what Utah State did last game: create turnovers.

“The times where we’ve been able to really push the pace is when we’re getting stops and getting steals,” Sprinkle said. “That won the game for us at Santa Clara. When we turned them over and we got out and transition a couple of times — it’s the only reason we wanted to be honest with you, other than Ian and Darius making one-on-one shots.”


Projected Starters

Utah State (10-1)

  • G – Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 10.6 points | 3.4 rebounds | 7.9 assists

  • G – Mason Falslev (6-3, Fr.) – 11.9 points | 4.4 rebounds | 3.2 assists

  • G – Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 12.0 points | 2.9 rebounds | 1.6 assists

  • F – Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 18.5 points | 9.2 rebounds | 2.7 assists

  • C – Isaac Johnson (7-0, So.) – 7.2 points | 2.5 rebounds | 0.8 assists

San Francisco (8-3)

  • G — Marcus Williams (6-2, Sr.) — 16.6 points | 3.3 rebounds | 2.6 assists
  • G – Mike Sharavjamts (6-8, So.) – 10.4 points | 3.2 rebounds | 3.5 assists

  • F –  Stefan Todorovic (6-8, Jr.) – 5.5 points | 1.9 rebounds | 0.7 assists
  • F – Jonathan Mogbo (6-8, Jr.) – 13.7 points | 10.1 rebounds | 3.4 assists

  • F – Ndewedo Newbury (6-7, Jr.) – 7.1 points | 3.6 rebounds | 1.0 assists


Utah State

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

Agbonkpolo has recently been dealing with flare-ups in his lingering foot injury that held him out of the Northwest Nazarene game. He received last-minute clearance to go against Santa Clara and played 35 minutes, but his status always remains day-to-day depending on how his foot feels.

San Francisco

  • Ryan Beasley – Questionable

Beasley, one of San Francisco’s key reserves in the backcourt, has missed the last three games for the Dons. He left their game against Arizona State on Dec. 3 after taking a hard fall and hasn’t played since.

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