‘Connected Focus’ For Utah State With Spartans On Horizon

Feb 10, 2023, 4:23 PM | Updated: Feb 12, 2023, 4:25 pm

LOGAN, Utah – Minutes after Wednesday night’s loss, Steven Ashworth noted several positives from the second-half comeback that wasn’t. The Aggies will need to take on their leader’s mindset because Utah State can’t afford to wallow in what could have been.

The Aggies (19-6, 8-4) travel to the Bay Area to face the San Jose State Spartans (14-10, 5-6) at Provident Credit Union Event Center on Saturday, February 11. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (MT). This game is a rematch of a USU come-from-behind win in Logan three weeks prior.

Both teams are looking to rebound from losses. Utah State dropped a heart-breaker at home, falling 63-61 against Mountain West leader San Diego State. After beating Wyoming by 20 at home, the Spartans came up short against Fresno State, losing 70-62 on February 7.

RELATED: Poor Start Dooms Utah State In Second Home Loss Of Season

‘Connected Focus’ For Utah State

“We proved to ourselves that we’re great defensively when we want to be,” Ashworth said following the loss. “Part of that is just a connected focus.”

Utah State held the Aztecs to 19 second-half points on 28.6 percent shooting. It was enough to allow the Aggies a chance at turning a 16-point deficit into their largest comeback win of the season. It wasn’t to be for Utah State, led by Ashworth’s 18 points.

USU head coach gave SDSU credit, “Tough game all around. Their defense really impacted us in a negative way. You have to give San Diego State credit for getting us out of sorts in our half-court offense.”

After falling behind 44-28 with 19:34 to play, the Aggies comeback fell short by two points. Despite the team battling through adversity and making a game of it late, Utah State just doesn’t have enough consistent firepower to battle back against one of the league’s best teams.

RELATED: Road Woes, Late Game Execution Remain Question Marks For Utah State

“We are one of the top teams in the Mountain West. We’re right there with everybody,” Ashworth said with confidence.

That may be true, but for the Aggies to reach their peak, they must find a way to show that connection and focus for a full 40 minutes.

San Jose State Looks For Revenge In Rematch

As has been the case too often in conference play, the Aggies fell behind by double figures early.

USU ended up shooting 44 percent (11-of-25) from the field, making just 2-of-10 three-point attempts in the first half.

After trailing by seven at the half, Ashworth led the second-half charge. He would make four of his team-high five threes in the second half.

The Aggies took their first second-half lead with 12:33 left, but it was short-lived as the Spartans used a 7-0 run to go back up 59-53.

Utah State never led by more than two points down the stretch but had just enough to secure the win.

Ashworth gave the Aggies a 74-72 lead with 1:44 left on his fifth and final three of the night. On the other end, Sage Tolbert answered with a layup to tie the game. Empty possessions by both offenses resulted in USU with the last offensive possession of the night.

Max Shulga drew a foul and knocked down the second of two free throws with five seconds left. Alvaro Cardenas missed a three at the buzzer and the Aggies survived.

San Jose State Leaders

The Spartans are 2-2 since losing in Logan. Home wins against Air Force and Wyoming have been offset by road losses to San Diego State and Fresno State.

SJSU scores the Mountain West’s third-fewest points at 68.1 points per game. Defensively, they allow a modest 66.3 points per game. Comparatively, USU scores 79.6 points per game while allowing 71.

Omari Moore leads two SJSU scorers in double-figures with 16.7 points per game. Alvaro Cardenas scores 10.3 points a night. Each shoot 34 percent from deep. Moore is the better overall shooter, burying 44.5 percent of his shots while Cardenas hits 36.4 percent from the field.

Sage Tolbert III leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 boards per game while scoring 8.9 points. Off the bench, Robert Vaihola has been Dan Akin-esque, scoring 7.9 points and grabbing 6.1 rebounds per game.

RELATED: Without Rylan Jones Healthy, Aggies Ceiling Remains Limited

Up Next

Utah State will face the San Jose State Spartans on Saturday, February 11. Tip-off for this game is scheduled for 8 p.m. (MT)

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. 

  • Utah State Aggies Scoreboard

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  • Utah State Aggies Standings

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‘Connected Focus’ For Utah State With Spartans On Horizon