Utah State women’s basketball is set to open the 2017-18 season in exhibition action this weekend. The Aggies will host Westminster on Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m.
AGGIES IN EXHIBITION
Saturday’s game is the only exhibition game for Utah State this season. All-time, Utah State is 11-2 in exhibition action. The Aggies have not lost an exhibition game since the 2005-06 season when they fell to the Utah Pride, 66-65, and Northwest Sports, 76-65. Utah State is 6-0 in exhibition play under sixth-year head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. Last season, Utah State opened the season in a 63-54 exhibition win over Colorado State-Pueblo.
SCOUTING THE GRIFFINS
Westminster is in its third and final provisional year as it fully moves to the Division II level. The Griffins will compete in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play, but will not yet be eligible to compete in the conference tournament or NCAA postseason events.
Last season, Westminster went 11-15 overall, including a 9-13 record in RMAC play. Senior forward Sydnee Taylor is the top returning player for the Griffins, as she averaged 11.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game a year ago. Shelley Jarrard is in her sixth season as the head coach at Westminster, where she has an overall record of 127-48. Utah State and Westminster have met in the Spectrum each of the last three seasons. The Aggies claimed all three victories in games that were official for USU, but exhibition for the Griffins.
Last season, both the Utah State men’s and women’s teams earned the Freshman of the Year honor. Eliza West claimed the title for the women, while Koby McEwen earned the award on the men’s side. This is only the third time in Mountain West history that a school has swept the Freshman of the Year accolades. UNLV freshmen claimed the award for the 2012-13 season, while TCU freshmen did so for 2011-12.
According to NCAA research, Utah State boasts the second-youngest team in the country this season. The Aggie roster is made of 83.3 percent underclassmen with just two juniors representing the upperclassmen. Utah State is just ahead of Mountain West rival San José State which has 80 percent of its roster made of freshmen and sophomores. UNC Greensboro has the youngest team in the country with 87.7 percent of its roster as underclassmen.
THREE MORE YEARS
At the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, the Utah State athletic department announced a three-year contract extension for head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. Finkbeiner became the eighth head coach for the women’s basketball program on April 26, 2012. In his first five seasons with the Aggies, he has posted a 72-85 record, including a 44-46 conference record, adding to his 546-327 overall mark in 28 years as a head coach. Finkbeiner is USU’s second-longest tenured head women’s basketball coach and second-winningest coach in school history, trailing only Raegan Pebley, who notched 110 victories in nine seasons (2004-12) with the Aggies.
YOU SAY GOODBYE
Utah State lost two players from last year’s roster to graduation. Forwards Antoina Robinson and Angelica de Paulo both concluded their collegiate careers this year after transferring to USU from New Mexico Junior College. Additionally, four players chose to leave the program and transfer.
AND I SAY HELLO
The USU coaching staff added three players to the roster for the 2017-18 season, in center Laura Daulton (Spring, Texas/Oak Ridge HS) forward Taylor Franson (American Fork, Utah/American Fork HS) and guard Emmie Harris (Danville, Ky./Boyle County HS).
The Aggies return seven letterwinners this season, along with a pair of players who redshirted the 2016-17 campaign. Among the returners are the top five starters from a year ago in sophomore guard Eliza West, sophomore guard Jessie Geer, junior guard Rachel Brewster, sophomore guard/forward Shannon Dufficy and junior center Deja Mason. Sophomore guard/forward Hailey Bassett and sophomore guard Olivia West also return to the floor, while guards Lindsey Jensen and Victoria Price are back after a redshirt season.
A STEP ABOVE
Utah State finished the 2016-17 season with a 17-15 overall record. This is the Aggies’ best finish and first winning season since the 2012-13 campaign, when the team went 18-14. Head coach Jerry Finkbeiner will post the second-best record of his tenure at Utah State. After making his debut at 18-14 his first season at the helm, the Aggies went 15-16 in 2013-14, 8-23 in the 2014-15 campaign and 14-17 a year ago.
CONTINUE THE CLIMB
Going 9-9 in Mountain West play, Utah State posted its best conference record and the most league wins since joining the MW in the 2013-14 season. The nine conference wins are the most recorded by the Aggies since 2012-13, when the team went 14-4 in its final season in the Western Athletic Conference.
PROTECT THE SPEC
Last season, Utah State posted a 12-4 record in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, including the last five straight games. The 12 wins set a new home-win record, topping the previous Spectrum record set by the 2011-12 squad that went 11-3 in the Spectrum. Aggie teams have won double-digit home games just four times in program history. All-time, Utah State is 167-158 in home games.
BEST OF THE LEAGUE
Utah State guard Eliza West was named the 2016-17 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, while guard Rachel Brewster and forward Shannon Dufficy also earned all-conference accolades. Brewster earned honorable mention all-Mountain West honors. Dufficy was named to the all-freshman team, along with West. The three all-conference honorees are the most Utah State has had in a season since the 2012-13 campaign. It is also the most USU players to receive postseason honors since the team joined the Mountain West.
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