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Feb 2, 2024 3:17 am

No. 17 Utah State aims to clear big hurdle at San Diego State

Utah State will try to maintain its best record in 13 years when the No. 17 Aggies visit San Diego State in a Mountain West Conference game Saturday afternoon.

The Aggies (19-2, 7-1 MWC) have won three in a row and 18 of 19 to take sole possession of first place in the conference standings. They haven’t been 19-2 since winning 20 of their first 22 games in the 2010-11 season.

Utah State is coming off an 82-61 win against visiting San Jose State on Tuesday night. Aggies coach Danny Sprinkle collected his 100th career victory, which includes 81 wins at Montana State and 19 in his first season with Utah State.

“It’s having great players, not only here, but at Montana State for four years,” Sprinkle said. “Everybody that’s been a part of that success track is deserving. I haven’t scored one point, one rebound, or one assist in those 100 wins.”

Utah State continues to be led by 6-8 forward Great Osobor, who’s averaging 19.1 points and 9.6 rebounds after totaling 31 points and seven rebounds in the win against San Jose State.

He’ll likely be matched against San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee, who leads the conference in scoring at 20.5 points and is second to Osobor in rebounding at 8.6.

Osobor has been getting more help of late, however.

Darius Brown II had 11 points and 10 rebounds against San Jose State for his third double-double of the season, and Ian Martinez scored 16 points against the Spartans on 6-for-6 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line.

“All the games we’re playing right now, we’re playing for Utah State,” Osobor said. “We’re playing for the Aggies, and you hold each other accountable because you want to be the best player for your team.”

The Aggies should have plenty of motivation to beat the Aztecs after losing the past four against them, most recently a 62-57 loss in the championship game of the Mountain West Tournament last March.

San Diego State (16-5, 5-3) has struggled to regain the form it showed on its way to the NCAA title game last season.

Since starting 14-2 and 3-0 in the Mountain West, the Aztecs have alternated wins and losses the past five games.

They most recently went down against Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo., Saturday, taking a brief lead with 7:29 remaining after trailing most of the game, but eventually losing 79-71.

“We have to execute,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “They executed and did enough to win.”

LeDee, who averaged 7.9 points as a reserve player for the Aztecs last season, has seen his offensive production dip in the past five games, averaging 16 points while shooting 50.9 percent, dropping his season mark to 55.9.

LeDee needs some help in the post if he hopes defenders will back off, but fellow starting forward Elijah Sanders hasn’t been the answer, and backup forward Jay Pal has seen his production tail off in recent games.

After showing promise with a pair of near double-doubles in wins against San Jose State and Nevada last month, Pal is a combined 1-for-8 from the floor in the past three games with eight points and four rebounds.

– Field Level Media

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