Aggies taking on Aztecs in rubber match with spot in MW title game on the line – Cache Valley Daily

LAS VEGAS — Utah State and San Diego State are very familiar with each other when it comes to Mountain West Tournament games. Four times in the last five seasons, now five times in six years, the Aggies and Aztecs have faced each other in the conference tournament. Those games have included some iconic moments, perhaps greatest of all is Sam Merrill’s game-winner in 2020.

“I don’t remember one game other than Sam Merrill banging a three on us to win it,” said SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher, who will have coached in all five of those games against USU. “That’s the thing I remember. That’s the curse of coaching. You always remember the ones you lose. I remember that shot and what an epic game that was.”

Except all of those previous occasions have occurred in the title game of the tournament. Friday night’s matchup at 7:30 p.m. is simply the semifinal. The four previous tournament matchups were split an even 2-2 for each side, as was this season’s series. San Diego State won 81-67 when they hosted USU, and the Aggies returned the favor 68-63 in the Spectrum.

What this year’s series has enjoyed that previous seasons where the Aggies and Aztecs faced is an all-time positional matchup between Jaedon LeDee and Great Osobor. The All-American candidate LeDee and MW Player of the Year Osobor have not disappointed in either of their matchups this year. LeDee’s averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in those two games, Osobor a solid 17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Only fueling that rivalry is the fact Osobor earned Player of the Year honors from the coaches vote, with LeDee getting the POY nod from the media votes. And if that wasn’t enough, both players are coming off huge performances in their respective quarterfinal games. Osobor scored 29 points and grabbed 17 boards. He was fouled 20 times leading to Mountain West Tournament record-tying 24 free throw attempts. LeDee was fouled 17 times himself and had a career-best 34 points and 16 rebounds.

Utah State will likely be down one of its key players once again. Mason Falslev, the standout redshirt freshman, missed yesterday’s quarterfinal matchup with Fresno State and the chances of him playing against the Aztecs aren’t high if USU head coach Danny Sprinkle’s post-Fresno State comments are anything to go on.

“It’s just kind of one of those we’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Sprinkle said. “He’s been getting a lot of treatment on it, but I don’t expect him to play tomorrow, to be honest.”

The Aggies relied heavily on sophomore Javon Jackson to make up for Falslev’s absence. Jackson scored a career-best 16 points and also made several key defensive plays, including three steals.

Both SDSU and USU needed overtime to down their quarterfinal opponents, the Aggies outlasting upset-minded Fresno State and the Aztecs outdueling the Rebels and their star freshman Dedan Thomas Jr. Close games are the lifeblood of the Mountain West and both teams are ready for a fight.

“It’s the Mountain West, there’s no teams in the Mountain West that we’re going to come in and win [easily],” Osobor said. “It’s high-level basketball. We tend to thrive in close games. I’m glad — I’m happy for our team’s resiliency and the way that we stick together in close games.”

Projected Starters

Utah State: 27-5

  • G — Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 12.2 points | 4.3 rebounds | 6.3 assists
  • G — Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 13.0 points | 3.8 rebounds | 1.7 assists
  • G — Josh Uduje (6-5, Jr.) – 8.8 points | 2.6 rebounds | 1.0 assists
  • F — Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 17.5 points | 8.9 rebounds | 2.9 assists
  • C — Isaac Johnson (7-0, So.) – 6.3 points | 3.1 rebounds | 0.9 assists

San Diego State: 23-9

  • G — Lamont Butler (6-2, Sr.) — 9.0 points | 2.6 rebounds | 2.9 assists
  • G — Darrion Trammell (5-10, Sr.) — 7.7 points | 2.3 rebounds | 3.2 assists
  • G — Reese Dixon-Waters (6-5, Jr.) – 10.5 points | 3.8 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F — Jay Pal (6-9, Sr.) – 5.0 points | 4.0 rebounds | 0.8 assists
  • F — Jaedon LeDee (6-9, Sr.) – 20.5 points | 8.2 rebounds | 1.3 assists

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