Utah State women’s basketball (0-0) is set to open the 2017-18 season this week. The Aggies will begin competition at UC Irvine (0-0) on Friday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. (MT). The team will then host Dixie State (0-0) in its home opener on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at noon.
Friday’s game will be streamed live through BigWestTV. 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. Live stats will also be available for each game. Links to every option will be available online prior to every game.
SCOUTING THE ANTEATERS
UC Irvine welcomes the Aggies to town for both teams’ season openers. Last season, the Anteaters posted a 5-26 record, including a 3-13 Big West ledger. UC Irvine returns three starters and five total letterwinners from a year ago, while adding five newcomers to the team. Junior guard Andee Ritter is the top returner for the Anteaters, as she averaged 12.1 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. Tamara Inoue is in her second season as the head coach at UC Irvine.
The all-time series between Utah State and UC Irvine dates back to the 1981-82 season, with the Anteaters leading, 7-4. The teams played together in the Big West for two seasons after the Utah State program was reinstated and before the Aggies joined the WAC. USU hosted UC Irvine in the Spectrum last season, topping the Anteaters, 68-52.
SCOUTING THE TRAILBLAZERS
Dixie State will open the season in a pair of games in a tournament at Western Oregon before traveling to Logan. Tuesday’s game will be an exhibition for the Trailblazers, but will count as an official contest for the Aggies.
Last season, Dixie State went 5-21 on the year, while posting a 5-15 record in PacWest play. The Trailblazers return four starters, along with one additional letterwinner, from last season’s roster. There are seven newcomers on the Dixie State bench this season. Redshirt junior guard Tramina Jordan is the top returning scorer, while senior center Ashlee Burge brings back the most rebounds for Dixie State, as the two averaged 11.0 points and 5.6 rebounds, respectively, last season. JD Gustin is beginning his second season as the head coach of the Dixie State program.
Utah State and Dixie State have met just once in official competition, a game won by the Trailblazers at the start of the 2010-11 season. The teams have also played two exhibition contests, with the Aggies winning both games in 2008 and 2015.
AGGIES IN SEASON OPENERS
All-time, Utah State is 7-20 in season-opening games. Last season, the Aggies opened their campaign at home in a 72-49 win over Westminster. That was USU’s first season-opening win since 2013. Friday will be Utah State’s first time opening the season on the road since 2014-15. That year, the Aggies opened the year at Oregon in a 100-77 loss.
KIDS IN THE CROWD
Tuesday’s game will be Utah State’s annual Elementary School Day. Students and teachers from 12 schools around Cache Valley will take a field trip to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for the game. Utah State expects 2,600 young fans to be in attendance at Tuesday’s noon tip-off.
AROUND THE BEEHIVE STATE
Tuesday’s game against Dixie State will be the first official game against an in-state opponent. Including the team’s preseason scrimmage and exhibition games, the Aggies will play all seven other teams in Utah. Still to come this season, Utah State will play at Southern Utah, BYU and Utah Valley, and will host Utah. The Aggies played an unofficial scrimmage against Weber State, and defeated Westminster in an exhibition game.All-time, Utah State is 39-97 against in-state opponents, with a 36-96 record against the Division I teams. Since Jerry Finkbeiner became the head coach at USU, the Aggies have gone 7-8 in official competition against other Utah schools.
A NEW VOICE
There will be a new voice on the radio for the Aggies this season. After contractual changes, the Utah State women’s basketball games will now be covered by Aggie Radio on 92.3 KBLU. Jaden Johnson will serve as the play-by-play voice for the broadcasts, covering both home and away games.
THE PRESEASON PICKS
Utah State women’s basketball has been 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.
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.
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 sophomore guard Rachel Brewster and freshman 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.
The Aggies face another split of games next week, as the team hosts Arizona on Friday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. The team will then play at Southern Utah on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 5 p.m.
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