Depth Showing Up As Injuries Hit Undefeated Utah State

Dec 16, 2022, 5:38 PM
Steven Ashworth - Utah State Aggies...
Utah State guard Steven Ashworth (Courtesy of USU Athletics)
(Courtesy of USU Athletics)

LOGAN, Utah – With injuries rearing their ugly yet inevitable head for the 9-0 Utah State Aggies, USU’s depth has already proven its worth.

With 40 percent of their starting lineup unavailable, the Aggies didn’t flinch against in-state opponent Westminster College.

Starting point guard Rylan Jones has missed the last three games after getting hit in the head and neck area after playing just four minutes against Utah Tech. Power forward Taylor Funk missed the win over Westminster with an ankle injury. Funk had started the previous eight games for USU.

“We haven’t really played the lineup that we started out there much since the scrimmages,” head coach Ryan Odom said of the group that started against Westminster in Thursday night. “That was the lineup that we started in the two closed scrimmages and it fared well in those two outings.”

RELATED: 67-Point Second Half Gives Utah State Blowout Win Over Westminster

Steven Ashworth Takes The Reigns

Jones’, a University of Utah transfer in his second season in Logan, stats that jump off of the page at 4.5 points and 4.5 assists per game. The loss of the senior guard’s leadership and ball security could have torpedoed an otherwise promising start.

In stepped junior point guard Steven Ashworth.

A backup in name only, Ashworth was familiar with the ask after stepping in for Jones at times last season,.

“I had a few games last year where that did end up happening with Rylan going out for a few games and me being our only other point guard. The good thing about this team is that every guard has improved their handle. I think that we’re a little more versatile this year. It wasn’t that much pressure once it happened.”

The move from sixth man to starter hasn’t been without issue.

RELATED: Utah State Erases Double-Digit Deficit Against LMU, Improve To 8-0

Before taking over as the starter, Ashworth had made four or more threes in a game four times. He made  8-of-9 from long range on his way to 30 points against Oral Roberts. In his next game against Utah Tech, Ashworth finished 7-of-12 from deep, scoring another 27 points in the win.

Prior to entering the starting lineup, Ashworth averaged eight three point attempts per game, cashing in at a 43.8 percent rate. Since, he is attempting just six threes per game but has made 50 percent of his attempts as a starter. Ashworth is averaging four assists per game as a starter and 5.2 off the bench.

At 18.4 points per game, Ashworth leads the Mountain West in scoring.

Dan Akin Brings The Funk

Just behind Ashworth is Taylor Funk, averaging 16.3 points per game in his first season with USU after transferring as a graduate senior from Saint Josephs. Funk is the Mountain West’s second leading rebounder, averaging 8.8 boards per game. He and Ashworth are first and second in the MW, shooting 46.4 percent for Funk and 54.5 percent for Ashworth from beyond the three point line.

Funk had started the first eight games of the season for Utah State.

RELATED: Balanced Utah State Weathers San Francisco Rally, Move To 7-0

With out Funk, graduate senior forward Dan Akin stepped into the starting power forward position.

Despite finishing with just two rebounds in 29 minutes against the Griffins, Akin was able to contribute 10 points to the win.

The uber-athletic forward has scored double-figures in eight of nine games this season. He is tied with Max Shulga and Taylor Funk for the team lead with two double-doubles this year. He also tied his season-high with two blocks.

No word yet if Funk or Jones will be able to return in the Aggies next game against Weber State.

Up Next

Utah State will welcome in the Weber State Wildcats (3-7) on Monday, December 19. Tipoff for this game is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MST).

Every Utah State basketball game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard on the call.

Coverage of Utah State University Athletics from KSL Sports can be found here. 

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Depth Showing Up As Injuries Hit Undefeated Utah State