Utah State’s improbably successful season ends with blowout loss to Purdue – Cache Valley Daily

Utah State head coach Danny Sprinkle is seen on the sidelines during the first half of a second-round college basketball game against Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 24, 2024 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — The dream, the magic, and the season could only last so long. And as it’s long been said “All good things must come to an end.”

That’s the state of Utah State basketball after a 106-67 shellacking at the hands of the Midwest region’s top seed, Purdue, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A truly dominant force the Aggies just couldn’t seem to handle.

From a program in disarray last spring, to a Mountain West champion in March, these Aggies created a memorable season.

“What our team did this year was historic,” USU head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “I don’t know if it’ll be done again at the Power Five, Power Six level. When you’re playing Mountain West, Big Ten, it’s hard to do with a completely brand new roster.”

Utah State’s point guard Darius Brown, called the season a “storybook ending” for his career. Another of USU’s veteran guards, Ian Martinez, said it was “really special” given his own career thus far.

“In my personal journey, it’s been really tough,” Martinez said. “I’ve been in a lot of different places, and as an international a lot of times I just look for a place to call home, and these guys, just the coaching staff, the players, they just made it really special for me. They took me. They were there for me the whole time. They believed in me. I’ve never had people who actually believed in me, and it meant a lot for me.”

But memorable seasons and storybook endings don’t stand up too well against teams like the Purdue Boilermakers.

“Tonight just ran into a buzz saw,” Sprinkle said. “We knew they were really good. I think there’s elite teams and there’s special teams, and they can be special.”

The Boilermakers were a wire-to-wire top four ranked team for a reason and those reasons were made plainly obvious as they took care of the Aggies on Sunday afternoon, though not immediately.

Utah State went toe-to-toe with the No. 3 team in the AP Poll…for about 12 minutes. The Aggies held the lead several times and for a couple decent stretches. Ian Martinez got off to a super-hot start, with 11 points early.

That lead quickly went away as the Boilermakers went on a 15-0 run late in the first half.

Cold shooting and too many fouls were most of the problem. USU missed 12 straight shots, leading to a scoreless span of five minutes. Purdue shot well enough itself, but 16 first-half free throws, courtesy of 13 fouls called on the Aggies, made for a truly disastrous combo.

The reigning (and perhaps soon to be two-time) college Player of the Year, Zach Edey, got hot during this stretch. He drew most of the fouls from the Aggies and had 21 points, 11 rebounds just at halftime.

“He’s a special player,” Sprinkle said. “You have to guard completely different than you have all year. Like there’s post guys that you play against that you have to double-team and do all this, but it’s impossible when he keeps it high and he’s got great touch and he’s finding guys and they’ve got elite shooters around him.”

The fouls had a major knock-on effect with Utah State’s rotations. Isaac Johnson, a key to the Aggies’ attempts to get around Zach Edey in the paint, picked up his second foul less than three minutes in. USU outscored Purdue by five points in the brief time Johnson was on the floor, but he played only three minutes.

Four different Aggies had two fouls by halftime. That essentially forced Sprinkle, who almost religiously refuses to play guys with two fouls in the first half, to dig deep into his bench. Karson Templin, Javon Jackson and even Nigel Burris saw extended time as Sprinkle tried to keep a stable rotation on the floor amidst the numerous fouls.

“It throws off your rotations, and it’s hard. We don’t have enough big bodies to keep throwing at Edey,” Sprinkle said.

A 16-point halftime deficit, punctuated by a bank-shot three right at the buzzer from Purdue, essentially put the game out of reach. Especially once a 7-0 run by the Boilermakers to start the second half came into play.

As much as Edey impacted the first half, his stamp wasn’t really on the second half. His 21 and 11 in the first half only turned into 23 and 14 for the game — some of that due to the fact he left the game with 12 minutes to play.

Most of the surge that led to Purdue leading by as much as 41 points came from every player not named Edey. Six different Boilermakers made a 3-pointer in just the second half as the team flexed its No. 2 ranked 3-point shooting percentage. They made 11 triples on the night, eight of those in the second half.

“It seemed like they made every 3-pointer and every even mid-range jump shot tonight,” Sprinkle said. “Which you have to make them make some of those, and if they do, you’ve just got to pat them on the butt and say congrats.”

The game was pretty much in hand for Purdue before Edey made his way to the bench.

Utah State finishes the year 28-7, which leaves Sprinkle tied with Craig Smith for the best season by a first-year head coach in Aggie history.

It’s a year that also saw records broken, with Darius Brown breaking Kris Clark’s single-season assist record, a first-ever outright Mountain West regular season championship, and the first NCAA Tournament victory in 23 years.

Brown may have said it best as he recalled what Sprinkle told him as the graduate guard checked out for the final time.

“It’s been a long, great year.”

Source link

Share This Article



Related Articles