‘A huge-open up tournament’ stands in between Utah Condition and a MWC three-peat

If you’re on the lookout for a no-brainer T-shirt concept for the Utah State Aggies, “Been there, carried out that” looks perfectly acceptable.

For the 3rd straight 12 months, the Aggies begin their postseason journey as the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament when remaining seen as currently being “on the bubble” for the NCAA Match.

And looking at that in both equally 2019 and ’20, Utah Point out won all three of its online games to depart Las Vegas with the tourney title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Match, the Aggies certainly have each individual appropriate to experience optimistic heading into 2021’s postseason.

“It is a new expertise for a good deal of our guys,” pointed out Craig Smith, who has nevertheless to reduce a meeting tournament recreation as head coach of the Aggies. “… We have eight men that have in no way been listed here or seasoned this, so from that regard, it may be distinct.

“But we have some veteran fellas, way too, in (Neemias) Queta, (Justin) Bean, Fonz (Alphonso Anderson) and Brock Miller that have been down this street a pair of unique periods. And that practical experience should really assist us.”

The Aggies (18-7) will open MWC Event perform at 7 p.m. (MST) Thursday towards UNLV (12-14) at the Thomas & Mack Center. The seventh-seeded Rebels roughed up No. 10 Air Power, 80-52, Wednesday afternoon in a to start with-round sport.

Utah State break up the common-time sequence with the Rebels, falling 59-56, on Jan. 25, then rebounding for an 83-74 acquire two nights later on. People two online games were being played on UNLV’s home court, but without the gain of Rebels admirers in the stands. That will go on on Thursday as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated this year’s tournament staying held without admirers.

“We’re excited to perform it is certainly going to be a dwelling court docket game for them,” Smith reported. “It will be a minimal unique with no the admirers at the tournament, but there is unquestionably nevertheless a good deal of familiarity with them. They are sleeping in their possess beds and participating in on their household court, so you have piece of it, as nicely.

“The only matter that will not be house is the floor.”

In the loss to the Rebels, the Aggies had a single of their worst offensive outings of the calendar year, shooting a time-very low 32.8% as a group, like a woeful 21.4% in the 2nd 50 %. Junior guard Marco Anthony ended up foremost the workforce with 18 points, but large adult males Queta and Bean combined to go just 7 for 20 from the field for 18 points.

In the rematch, freshman guard Rollie Worster led the way with his greatest game as an Aggie, racking up 19 points, 9 rebounds and 9 helps in 38 minutes. Utah State also obtained 15 points from Miller, and a great deal improved performances from Queta (13 details, 8 rebounds) and Bean (13 details, nine rebounds).

Rebels junior guard David Jenkins, who had 14 factors in UNLV’s gain, was a drive in the decline, likely 12 of 21 from the subject, like 5 of 7 from 3-point vary, on his way to 33 points.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Anderson said of experiencing the Rebels for a third time. “… They received some men that can genuinely set the ball in the gap. One particular of my old higher university teammates, David Jenkins, plays for them, and he can definitely shoot the ball. Bryce Hamilton can score very nicely, and (Caleb) Grill can shoot it.

“They’ve acquired a lot of unique fellas that can get hot at specific moments, so we have got to be audio defensively and make them score in touch cases.”

UNLV had dropped a few of its very last 4 video games heading into Wednesday’s clash with Air Drive, but the Rebels experienced tiny trouble with the Falcons (5-20) many thanks to taking pictures 63% from the floor in the first 50 percent. Currently up by 18 at halftime, UNLV led by as quite a few as 32 points in the second fifty percent.

Jenkins knocked down 6 of 9 3-position makes an attempt on his way to a recreation-large 21 points, when Hamilton added 18 points, seven rebounds and four helps for the Rebels.

“Those guys can seriously, genuinely get it likely in a hurry,” Smith explained of UNLV. “… We’re likely to have to protect at a genuinely substantial stage. They’re these kinds of a rhythm team, and they are explosive. They can go, bam, bam, bam, genuinely speedy as a staff and separately.”

Utah Condition has never received 3 straight meeting event championships, and this time the Aggies will be striving to do it without the need of the aid of guard Sam Merrill. The Bountiful Superior product, who was named the MVP of the last two Mountain West tourneys, is now in the NBA as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Even so, irrespective of Merrill’s absence and the uncertainty of the pandemic, the Aggies have nevertheless managed to set them selves in the identical spot they’ve been the prior two seasons. Of program, following upsetting fifth-ranked San Diego Condition in the championship video game of the previous year’s tournament, the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic denied the Aggies and chance to go to a next straight NCAA Tournament.

“It’s like, of course, we gained the match, but we don’t really feel like we received the reward that we desired,” mentioned Anderson, who was named the conference’s Sixth Male of the Year earlier this 7 days. “Personally, that is how I come to feel, and I know a couple of other men do, as nicely. But that just helps make us hungry to occur again and contend once more.”

New Mexico is the only program in the record of the Mountain West Meeting to seize three straight match titles, pulling off the hat trick with championships in 2012, ’13 and ’14.

At the second, at the very least, it appears the Aggies will have Miller out there for their postseason run. Utah State’s top 3-point shooter didn’t engage in in USU’s last two games just after aggravating a back again personal injury in late February.

Smith mentioned he “we anticipate Brock playing” from the Rebels, whilst Anderson additional, “He’s excellent. He’s moving all over well. He’s speaking, becoming vocal, staying a chief. And you can tell he’s thrilled to be again.”

In the first match of the MW match on Wednesday, No. 8 Wyoming set up the most details in a regulation match in tourney history, burying No. 9 San Jose Point out, 111-80. The Cowboys (14-10) will participate in major-seeded San Diego Condition (20-4) at 1 p.m. Thursday.

In the remaining sport of match enjoy on Wednesday, No. 6 Fresno State bounced No. 11 New Mexico, 85-77. The Bulldogs will get on No. 3 Colorado Point out (17-5) at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, though Thursday’s other contest involving No. 5 Nevada (15-9) and No. 4 Boise Point out (18-7) is scheduled to tip off at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s an fascinating time,” Smith explained. “I assume it’s a broad-open up event. It is anybody’s ballgame, and the workforce that can set jointly the three most effective game titles in a few days is likely to find a way to acquire, definitely.

“We’re energized to be below. I like how we’re taking part in, but we’re going to have to participate in properly to lower down the nets on Saturday afternoon.”