Aggies battle Broncos for right to first place in the Mountain West – Cache Valley Daily

A week off has given Utah State a chance to rest, get healthier and as head coach Danny Sprinkle put it “be able to watch everybody else beat up each other.” Now the squad is travelling to Boise State to take on the Broncos. The winner will claim sole possession of first place in the standings heading into February.

Both these teams actually share a most recent opponent. The Aggies hosted Fresno State last Saturday with the Broncos travelling to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs. USU had a much easier time, rolling to a 21-point victory while the Broncos escaped their road game with a four-point win, rallying in the last 90 seconds after blowing a double-digit lead.

Boise State’s home record is nearly untarnished. Up until earlier this year, the Broncos had won 22 straight games at home, spanning nearly all of last season (including all of conference play) and up until Jan. 16 when it lost to UNLV. The list of teams that have lost at ExtraMile Arena is a fairly impressive one, including Colorado State, San Diego State and San Francisco. It’s a tough venue to get a win in.

The Broncos put forth a slate of four long, versatile forwards, three of whom start. Chibuzo Agbo, Tyson Degenhart and O’mar Stanley are Boise State’s top scorers and top rebounds, all standing between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8. Cam Martin, a 6-foot-9 transfer forward from Kansas, will mix into that group coming off the bench.

It’s an imposing group that’s powered the team’s success this season and Sprinkle had high praise for the group, especially for Agbo who’s leading the team in total points this season, averaging 14.7, to go with 5.1 rebounds. He’s also the team’s top 3-point shooter at 43 percent on nearly six attempts per game.

“If they did a league MVP right now, he’d probably be it,” Sprinkle said.

Not to be forgotten, however, is a solid guard line, featuring veteran Max Rice, the team’s fourth-leading scorer at 11.3 points per game, plus the transfer and familiar name Roddie Anderson III. Anderson is the son of the former Aggie basketball player of the same name and transferred to Boise State after spending his freshman season at UC San Diego. This year, Anderson is averaging 5.3 points and a team-leading 2.5 assists.

“He’s adjusted to the Mountain West really well,” Sprinkle said of Anderson. “He’s aggressive. He’s a tough kid. And he can really get the ball downhill. He’ll off ball screens. And I think he’s a capable shooter too.”

Sprinkle has been harping on multiple keys to success for several straight games. First and foremost, he wants his team to have less than 10 turnovers. The Aggies are 5-0 when they have fewer than 10 giveaways and 8-1 when they have less than 11 (the one loss being on the road at Bradley in overtime). Just as key to this one, though, will be not letting the Broncos rebound their own missed shots.

“If they (rebound) more than 20 percent of their misses, you have no chance,” Sprinkle said.

That’s far easier said than done. Boise State ranks a pretty solid 91st in offensive rebounding percentage (coincidently tied with Utah State which owns the same OReb%). In conference play they’ve consistently grabbed near or around that 20 percent mark Sprinkle highlighted.

The overall key in this game for the Aggies will be finding a way to match the physicality across the board. Great Osobor is someone you pen in as being ready for physicality (he’ll bring it himself even if no one else does), and Darius Brown and Ian Martinez are tough-as-nails guards, but it’ll need to be an all-around team effort to take down a team that is physical at every position. USU has shown itself to be capable, but haven’t faced many teams of the Broncos’ caliber this season and come away unscathed.

Projected Starters

Utah State: 17-2 (5-1, T-1st in MW)

  • G — Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 10.7 points | 3.3 rebounds | 7.1 assists
  • G — Mason Falslev (6-3, Fr.) – 11.6 points | 4.8 rebounds | 2.8 assists
  • G — Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 13.6 points | 3.4 rebounds | 1.7 assists
  • F — Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 18.7 points | 9.7 rebounds | 2.7 assists
  • C — Isaac Johnson (7-0, So.) – 6.1 points | 2.9 rebounds | 0.9 assists

Boise State: 14-5 (5-1, T-1st in MW)

  • G — Roddie Anderson III (6-2, So.) — 5.3 points | 2.9 rebounds | 2.5 assists
  • G — Max Rice (6-5, Sr.) – 11.3 points | 3.7 rebounds | 1.7 assists
  • F — Chibuzo Agbo (6-7, Sr.) – 14.7 points | 5.1 rebounds | 0.7 assists
  • F — Tyson Degenhart (6-7, Jr.) – 15.1 points | 5.4 rebounds | 1.6 assists
  • F — O’mar Stanley (6-8, Jr.) – 12.8 points | 6.3 rebounds | 1.5 assists

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