It seems that Utah State state is starting to find it's rhythm at just the right time with wins against Nevada and Air Force to move them to 4-2 in conference play. Now they face a whole different beast on Saturday as they take on UNLV. The series between these two teams has not been pretty, with the Rebels holding a 29-3 series advantage. But the Aggies will look to get a big time win down in Vegas.
For Utah State, this has been an up and down year for them, currently sitting at 11-7 on the year. It seems like, however, with the announcement of Stew Morrill's retirement, you get the feeling this team is playing their hearts out to send him out a winner. And we have seen just how hard they can play. Even though they do have seven losses on the season, none of them have been bigger than ten points. With the effort they've shown, this game could go either way.
When you look at UNLV, you may laugh at their 10-9 record. But remember, this is a team that played Kansas earlier this year and stuck around for a good chunk of the game, even leading at halftime. And they aren't pushovers at home, amassing an 8-2 home record this season. The Mack has been a tough place to play, so we will see how the Aggies fare.
The most glaring stat that pops out when looking at the Rebels is blocks. They rank 3rd in the country in total blocked shots and 4th in total blocks per game, averaging around 7 per game. Sophomore forward Christian Wood leads the team in blocked shots this season with 54, which puts him 11th in the nation in that category. The team also ranks eight in total defensive rebounds per game, averaging 28 per game.
For the Aggies, the key to their success is how well they perform on offense. In all six of their conference games this season, the team has shot better than 45 percent from beyond the arc each game. Jalen Moore has been solid this season, scoring in double digits in all but one of Utah State's 18 games, including a career-high 22 points in the most recent game at Nevada. It's safe to say that if the Aggies can keep up the kind of offensive prowess they've been showing the last few games, they may have a solid chance at winning this one on the road.
The other key is rebounding. As mentioned above, the Rebels rank eighth in the country in defensive rebounding while Utah State has a minus (-) 8.8 rebounding margin this season. They are allowing numerous second-chance points this season but have gotten a little better on the boards. With a team as athletic as UNLV, giving up second-chance points can be a killer.
You also have teams who are enduring different seasons as well, with the Aggies sitting at 4-2 in conference while the Rebels are 1-5. It will be interesting to see if USU can keep their streak going or if UNLV can get back on the right track.
The game will be at the Thomas & Mack Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.