Taylor Funk Leads Utah State To Fifth Straight Win, Three Seed In MW Tourney

Mar 4, 2023, 9:03 PM | Updated: Mar 5, 2023, 3:56 pm
USU forward Taylor Funk celebrates after making a three against San Diego State. (Garret Graf, USU Athletics)
(Garret Graf, USU Athletics)

LOGAN, Utah – On senior night, graduate transfer Taylor Funk played perhaps his best game of the season, scoring 24 points in an 86-73 win over Boise State. Utah State clinched the third seed in next week’s 2023 Mountain West Championships.

Utah State (24-7, 13-5) hosted the Boise State Broncos (23-8, 13-5) in the Mountain West regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday, March 4.

Utah State entered having won four straight games. Earlier in the week, the Aggies blew out UNLV in Las Vegas, 91-66. It was the largest margin of victory in a conference game for the program this season.

5-5 on the road this season, Boise State beat No. 18 San Diego State 66-60 at home in their last game. In their previous matchup this season, the Broncos gave Utah State their most lopsided defeat of the season. Boise State built a double-digit first-half lead on their way to an 82-59 win.

RELATED: Utah State Stymies Runnin’ Rebels In Dominating Second Half

Funk led the Aggies with 24 points and eight rebounds on 9-of-12 shooting. Steven Ashworth poured in 19 points, dished out eight assists and grabbed four rebounds with four steals. Sean Bairstow added 12 points and Max Shulga rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points.

Chibuzo Agbo led the Broncos with 18 points. Tyson Degenhart added 14 points in the loss.

First Half

Steven Ashworth and Trevin Dorius ran a pick and roll to perfection on the night’s first possession. Dorius finished the play, rising high for Ashworth’s pass and throwing it down with one hand to give USU an early lead.

Graduate senior Taylor Funk, after scoring two points and attempting just three shots in the win against UNLV, grabbed four rebounds and added seven points before the first media timeout.

Utah State used a 7-0 run to build a 15-9 lead with 14:35 left.

RELATED: Utah State On Wrong End Of Hot Shooting Night, Lose To Boise State

Chibuzo Agbo scored ten points in ten minutes to keep Boise State close.

Funk’s second three gave the Aggies a 25-18 lead as he reached double figures for the second time in his last six games.

Moments later, an Ashworth steal turned into a transition layup and three-point opportunity for Max Shulga on the other end. Shulga finished the free throw to give the Aggies a 33-20 lead.

Senior Sean Bairstow gave his team their largest lead of the night with back to back layups that made it 37-23.

In the final minute of the half, Ashworth’s fourth steal of the night led to an RJ Eytle-Rock layup to give the Aggies a 20-point advantage.

Boise State closed the half on a 6-0 run, allowing USU to take a 47-33 halftime lead.

Funk led USU with 15 points and six rebounds. Ashworth added 11 points with six assists and four steals in the first half. The pair combined to hit 5-of-8 threes in the half.

Agbo led the Broncos with 13 points.

Second Half

Utah State began the second half right where they left off in the first. Ashworth finished an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Aggies up 17.

Alley-oop finishes from Akin and Shulga got the Spectrum crowd rocking as USU took a 60-44 lead with 15:15 left in the game.

With the Broncos threatening to cut the lead to single digits, Ashworth hit a huge top of the key three. The bucket put USU in front 63-49 with 12:45 left.

RELATED: Report: Former Aggie Sam Merrill To Sign 10-Day Contract With Cleveland Cavaliers

Minutes later, Funk got free for a right-handed baseline dunk that gave him 19 points for the night.

After shooting 37 percent from the field in the first half, the Broncos enjoyed 56.3 percent shooting in the first 14 minutes of the half. In spite of the offensive success, Utah State kept finding a way to answer, keeping Boise State at arm’s length on the scoreboard. USU made 10-of-20 shots during the same stretch.

The Broncos finally cut the lead to nine after an Aggie turnover led to a fast break layup for Marcus Shaver Jr. Shaver continued his takeover, bringing Boise State win six, 77-71 with 2:13 left.

After a timeout, Funk answered with his most important three of the night, giving USU a nine-point lead.

The Aggies weathered the storm, picking up the 86-73 win.

Up Next

Utah State heads to Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2023 Mountain West Championships. The tournament will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center beginning Wednesday, March 8. The Mountain West title game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, March 11.

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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Taylor Funk Leads Utah State To Fifth Straight Win, Three Seed In MW Tourney