Bovine Blog: Could Free Throws Limit Utah State As Season Continues?

Dec 2, 2023, 9:02 AM

LOGAN, Utah – Thumbing its nose at a ninth-place Mountain West preseason prediction, Utah State has won six of its first seven games to open the 2023-24 season. Dominating teams in a myriad of ways, but could one glaring shortcoming hold the Aggies back?

Will free throw woes be the undoing of a USU team off to a fast start?

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Averaging better than 80 points per game and outscoring teams by almost 17 points in those games, the Aggies have been unexpectedly formidable. USU is outrebounding opponents by nearly nine boards and dishing out more than 19 assists per game, good for ninth in the country.

Defensively, the Aggies have held teams under 43 percent from the field in five of seven games. A defensive field goal percentage of .527 places Utah State eighth in the country. The only time USU has been outshot this season was in a 72-66 loss at Bradley in the second game of the year.

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Newcomer Great Osobor has lived up to his name for the Aggies. Osobor is one of five players in the country averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He is also the only one of the five that averages more than three assists per game.

Despite all of the superlatives, a troubling trend has emerged for USU. Poor free throw shooting has plagued Utah State through seven games.

After knocking down just five of ten charity attempts against Saint Louis, the Aggies are tied for the 296th worst free throw rate (65.2 percent) in the country. Since making 71.4 percent of its free throws in the overtime loss to Bradley, USU hasn’t topped 67 percent in a game since.

Not only has Danny Sprinkle’s team struggled to convert freebies, but the Aggies have a hard time getting to the line. USU has attempted the 221st most free throws (18.9 att/gm) and knocked down the 258th fewest (12.3 made/gm) nationwide.

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With his back-to-the-basket presence, Osobor is the only Aggies to attempt more than 15 free throws so far this season. His 64 percent from the field hasn’t helped as the junior from England is converting just 64.9 percent (37-of-57) of his charity attempts.

With a half dozen games until Mountain West play begins, Utah State has been the worst free throw shooting team in the conference. Only UNLV (63) and Nevada (83) have made fewer than the Aggies 86 free throws.

Will this be a trend that comes back to bite the Aggies when it matters most? Only time will tell.

Following USU With KSL Sports Zone

USU returns home to take on former Big West conference foe UC Irvine (6-1) on Saturday, December 2. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. (MT).

Listen to USU basketball games on KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard on the call.

Find KSL Sports coverage of Utah State University Athletics here. 

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Bovine Blog: Could Free Throws Limit Utah State As Season Continues?