Utah State closing out non-conference slate at home vs East Tennessee State – Cache Valley Daily

Photo by Lorene Hale

LOGAN — Utah State will look to continue its improbably hot start to the season, currently amounting to a 10-game win streak and 11-1 overall record, in the Aggies’ non-conference finale against East Tennessee State.

The Aggies won’t be the only team with a winning streak on the line in this game as ETSU is riding a four-game streak that has flipped the team’s 3-4 start into a current 7-4 overall record. The wins aren’t the most impressive, with none of the victories coming against teams in the top 200 of the NET. But it’s a win streak nonetheless.

USU head coach Danny Sprinkle said ETSU will be “the most athletic team we’re going to play” with “five tremendous starters” that can cause a lot of problems.

One of the players Utah State would normally rely on to counter athletic teams, the versatile senior forward Max Agbonkpolo, will not be available in this game and likely not for the rest of the year. Sprinkle said that after the San Francisco game, X-rays found a fracture in Agbonkpolo’s foot and that he will need surgery. The 6-foot-9 forward had already been perpetually day-to-day because of his foot and was playing through pain every game.

Although Utah State has started 11-1, the two games last week exposed some key areas of improvement, especially on offense. Head coach Danny Sprinkle spoke about improving the team’s spacing, something the Aggies have had nearly a week to work on in practice.

“We’ve done at least a 10 minute segment every day on that,” Sprinkle said. “And a lot of it is our guards just standing around. Like, we’ll come up, we’ll pass it, and then we’ll just stand. And those are the guys that gotta move. We gotta be able to open up driving lanes for our other guards, and then it opens up our post guys on feeds.”

One of the post guys the Aggies will certainly try to “open up” some offense for is forward Great Osobor. After starting the year averaging 19.5 points and recording five double-doubles, Osobor scored just 17 points total last week, shooting 5 of 23 between the two games at Santa Clara and against San Francisco. Osobor retained his rebounding production, grabbing 18 in the two games, but his offense is a big reason the Aggies have been so successful and they won both games last week despite his struggles.

“They’ll probably double Great tomorrow,” Sprinkle said. “But he’s got to be prepared for it and get the ball out and repost and we’ve got to knock down some shots.”

ETSU’s frontcourt duo of Jadyn Parker and Jaden Seymour have the length to potentially bother Osobor in the post, with Parker averaging a team-leading 1.7 blocks per game. Both are also nimble forwards (though not very bulky) and it will be difficult for Osobor to simply beat them with speed and easily finish over or around them. He’ll need to significantly improve finishing on contested shots, something that’s been lacking lately.

Potentially the top matchup in this game will be between Utah State’s Ian Martinez and ETSU’s Ebby Asamoah. Martinez is coming off a week in which averaged 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals in the Aggies two wins last week, an overall performance that earned him Mountain West Player of the Week. Asamoah is having a great run himself, averaging 19.7 points in his last seven games, including a 46.6 percent rate on 3-pointers.

“Tremendous player. Probably the best shooter we’ve played — him or (Gibson Jimerson) at St. Louis,” Sprinkle said. “He can really get it going. He’s averaging almost four (3-pointers made) a game. He sprints off staggers, there’s no hesitation, he just elevates and shoots. He’s about six five. And so our guards have their work cut out for him.”

Speaking of 3-point shooting, the Buccaneers like to do it. Like, a lot. They rank 52nd in 3-point attempts per game and have a potentially deceptive 3-point percentage, ranking 278th with a team percentage of 31.3. As the numbers stand right now, Asamoah is the only major threat to hit from outside, with Jaden Seymour at least somewhat capable with his 35.3 percent on roughly three attempts per game.

But two other players, Karon Boyd and Justice Smith, are currently in slumps and could break out at any moment. Last year, both players shot above 35 percent from three while this year both are shooting worst than 20 percent.

“I think they’re probably like us,” Sprinkle said. “They have guys that are capable of knocking down shots on any given night. But for whatever reason, like our guys, they haven’t knocked them down quite to the extent that they’re probably capable of.”

Projected Starters

Utah State (11-1)

  • G – Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 10.2 points | 3.6 rebounds | 7.6 assists

  • G – Mason Falslev (6-3, Fr.) – 11.3 points | 4.2 rebounds | 3.0 assists

  • G – Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 12.7 points | 3.4 rebounds | 1.5 assists

  • F – Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 17.5 points | 9.1 rebounds | 2.8 assists

  • C – Isaac Johnson (7-0, So.) – 7.1 points | 2.3 rebounds | 0.8 assists

East Tennessee State (7-4)

  • G — Quimari Peterson (6-1, Jr.) — 12.7 points | 4.0 rebounds | 3.7 assists
  • G – Ebby Asamoah (6-4, Sr.) – 17.0 points | 4.2 rebounds | 0.8 assists

  • F –  Karon Boyd (6-5, So.) – 8.2 points | 6.6 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F – Jaden Seymour (6-9, Jr.) – 11.9 points | 6.9 rebounds | 1.8 assists

  • F – Jadyn Parker (6-10, Jr.) – 6.7 points | 6.0 rebounds | 1.1 assists


Utah State

  • Max Agbonkpolo – OUT (Foot)

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