Utah State women’s basketball (7-22, 5-13 MW) is set to begin play at the 2018 Mountain West Championships this week. The ninth-seeded Aggies will open the tournament against No. 8 Air Force (5-24, 5-13 MW) on Monday, March 5, at 3 p.m. (MT).
OVER THE AIRWAVES
All regular-season home and Mountain West games will continue to be broadcast as a USU Athletics Production on the Mountain West Network. Live stats and play-by-play information will be available through GameTracker, while updates will also be provided through the team’s social media outlets. Utah State women’s basketball games are also broadcast on the radio on 92.3 KBLU, with Jaden Johnson on the call. The games will be streamed on the air and online. Links to each option will be available online prior to every game.
MOUNTAIN WEST MADNESS
The Aggies will open the tournament in a 3 p.m. (MT) game against the Falcons at the Thomas & Mack Center. Utah State and Air Force split the regular-season meetings, with each team winning its home contests. No. 7 Nevada will take on No. 10 San Diego State at 5:30 p.m., while No. 6 New Mexico and No. 11 San José State will close the first day of competition at 8 p.m. The slate of games on Tuesday, March 6, will start with the winner between Utah State and Air Force taking on top-seeded Boise State at 1 p.m. No. 4 Fresno State and No. 5 Colorado State will play at 3:30 p.m., while the winner of the game between Nevada and San Diego State will take on No. 2 UNLV at 7 p.m. The night will end with the winner between New Mexico and San José State playing No. 3 Wyoming at 9:30 p.m. The semifinal games are set for Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. The teams will be playing for the chance to play in the Championship game on Friday, March 9, at 1 p.m., and earn the league’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
All-time, Utah States is 7-14 in conference tournament action. Since the reinstatement of the women’s basketball program during the 2003-04 season, USU has played in two Big West tournaments, eight Western Athletic Conference tournaments and three Mountain West tournaments. USU was 0-2 all-time in the Big West Tournament and ended its time in the WAC with a 4-8 tournament record. Since joining the Mountain West in the 2013-14 season, Utah State has gone 2-3 in tournament action. In that first season in the league, the eighth-seeded Aggies topped No. 9 New Mexico, 69-66, before falling to top-seeded Colorado State, 72-67. As the ninth seed at the end of the 2014-15 season, USU fell to No. 8 San José State, 99-85. In 2016, No. 7 Utah State advanced to the quarterfinals with a 59-35 win over Nevada, but fell to Fresno State, 55-47. Last season, the sixth-seeded Aggies again made it to the quarterfinals with a 46-40 win over No. 11 Air Force, but were eliminated by No. 3 UNLV in a 68-43 loss.
This week will mark the Aggies’ eighth-straight conference tournament in Las Vegas. USU’s final three WAC tournaments were held at the Orleans Arena, while every Mountain West tournament has been held at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Utah State women’s basketball was picked sixth in the Mountain West women’s basketball preseason poll as voted on by a panel of the league’s 11 head coaches and media representatives. After claiming the tournament title at the end of the 2016-17 season, Boise State was picked to finish first in the league with 221 total points and seven first-place votes. Wyoming was tabbed second, as the Cowgirls earned 216 points and six first-place votes. Reigning regular-season champion Colorado State placed third in the poll with 211 points and six first-place nods. New Mexico (186 points) and UNLV (185 points) rounded out the top five with four and two first-place votes, respectively. Utah State was tabbed sixth with 136 points, followed by Fresno State in seventh with 117 points and San Diego State in eighth with 102 points. San José State (61 points), Nevada (60 points) and Air Force (29 points) concluded the poll in ninth, 10th and 11th places, respectively.
BEST OF THE LEAGUE
Prior to the start of the 2017-18 Mountain West Championship, the conference office will announce the all-conference teams. All conference honors will be voted on by the league’s 11 head coaches. The league announcement will be made at 1 p.m., on Monday, March 5, with the first tournament game set for 3 p.m., that day. Players will be honored as part of all-conference, all-freshman, all-defensive teams. Individual accolades will also be given out for the player, defensive player, newcomer, freshman, sixth person and coach of the year. Last season, Utah State had three players earn all-conference honors. Eliza West was named Freshman of the Year and to the all-freshman team, while Rachel Brewster earned honorable mention all-conference honors and Shannon Dufficy earned an all-freshman team nod.
SCOUTING THE FALCONS
Air Force begins the Mountain West Championships with a 5-24 overall record, going 5-13 in conference play. The Falcons won their last two games of the regular season with a home win against Wyoming (57-57) and a road victory at San José State (66-60)
Air Force returned four starters and two additional letterwinners to its roster this season. A year ago, the Falcons posted a 4-25 overall record, going 2-16 against Mountain West opponents. Freshman guard Kaelin Immel leads the Falcon offense averaging 14.8 points per game, while senior forward Dee Bennett averages a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. As a team, Air Force is averaging 55.7 points per game while shooting 34.7 percent (156-of-449) from the field, 26.0 percent (107-of-412) from the 3-point line and 67.1 percent (331-of-493) from the free throw line. Chris Gobrecht is in her third season as the head coach at Air Force, where she has an overall record of 10-77.
Utah State leads the all-time series against Air Force, 9-3, in games dating back to the 2004-05 season. The teams split their two contests this season, with each team winning its home game. The Falcons took a 57-50 victory at the Air Force Academy, while the Aggies posted a 57-55 win in Logan last week.
TWO YEARS STRAIGHT
Utah State and Air Force are playing each other in the first round of the Mountain West Championships for the second-straight season. A year ago, the sixth-seeded Aggies defeated the No. 11 Falcons, 46-40, in the opening round of the tournament.
THE 1,000 POINT CLUB
Junior guard Rachel Brewster is the newest member of the 1,000 point club at Utah State. With her nine points at UNLV, Brewster became the 10th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point milestone. She currently ranks 10th on the career scoring list with 1,005 points.
HELP HER OUT
In last week’s win against San José State, Utah State posted a season-high 24 assists. The 24 are the most by the Aggie team since Dec. 19, 2014, when the team tied the program record of 28 assists in a game at Sacramento State. Sophomore guard Eliza West led that category with a career-best 10, becoming the first USU player to record 10 or more since the 2011-12 season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD
The Aggies’ 86 points in last week’s win over San José State are the most by the team against a Division I team this season. Additionally, the total is the most scored against a Mountain West opponent since March 1, 2014, when USU put up 96 points in another game against the Spartans.
As the regular season wound down, Utah State posted two wins in a row for the first time during the year. The Aggies defeated Air Force (57-55) on Feb. 24 and San José State (86-78) Feb. 27, both at home.
WEDDING BELLS ARE RINGING
Sophomore guard/forward Hailey Bassett made good use of the team’s bye last week, when she got engaged. Bassett will marry Wade Meacham, a Utah State football player, on May 25.
A NEW BEST
Junior center Deja Mason is the new all-time blocks leader at Utah State with 139 in her three seasons. Mason set the record with three blocks in the loss at Nevada, passing Nicole Johnson, who held the record of 133 since 2010.
DISHING OUT DIMES
Sophomore guard Eliza West continues to lead the Aggies in the assist column with 123 on the season. She tallied a career-high 10 in the win against San José State, becoming the first USU player to record double-digit assists since 2012. West currently ranks seventh all-time at Utah State with 269 career assists.
RANKING FROM LONG-RANGE
Junior guard Rachel Brewster and sophomore guard Olivia West both rank on the top-10 record list for 3-point field goals made and attempted. Brewster has made 94 3-pointers in her career, the third-most of any USU player. West has hit 70 shots from behind the arc, ranking 10th. Brewster has attempted 325 3-point field goals to rank fourth, while West ranks eighth in the same category with 207 attempted shots.
RELYING ON THE STARTERS
Utah State’s starting five have made the most significant impact on the floor this season. The Aggie starters have played 68.2 percent (3,990) of the minutes while scoring 71.7 percent (1,232) of the points and tallying 63.2 percent (631) of the team’s rebounds.
AGAINST THE MOUNTAIN WEST
Utah State has an 90-152 all-time record against current members of the Mountain West. In their fifth year as a member of the conference, the Aggies have gone 32-47 in Mountain West play. Utah State has winning records against Air Force (9-3), Nevada (17-12) and San José State (17-10).
Tournament play at the 2018 Mountain West Championships will continue through the week. Quarterfinal games are set for Tuesday, March 6, while the semifinals will be played on Wednesday, March 7. The championship game is set for 1 p.m. (MT) on Friday, March 7.
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