Utah State women’s basketball (1-3) opens a three-game week on Monday, Dec. 27, as it plays a regional game at Idaho State (4-1). The Aggies and Bengals will meet at Reed Gym at 7 p.m.
OVER THE AIRWAVES
Monday’s game at Southern Utah will be broadcast on Pluto.tv. 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 throughout the season 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 every option will be available online prior to every game.
SCOUTING THE BENGALS
Idaho State welcomes the Aggies to Pocatello with a 4-1 record. The Bengals opened the year with four-straight wins, just one of which was at home, before suffering their first loss at Pepperdine (80-74) last Tuesday.
Idaho State returns two starters and five letterwinners from a year ago, a team that went 19-14 on the season, including a 10-8 Big Sky ledger. The coaching staff added nine players to the roster in the off-season. Redshirt senior guard Brooke Blair leads the Bengal offense, averaging 16.6 points and 3.6 assists per game. Redshirt junior guard Grace Kenyon is the top rebounder for ISU, as she is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game. As a team, Idaho State is averaging 78.8 points per game, while allowing 62.4 points from its opponents. The Bengals are shooting 47.6 percent (137-of-288) from the floor, 48.3 percent (43-of-89) from the 3-point line and 62.6 percent (77-of-123) from the free throw line. Seton Sobolewski is in his 10th season as the head coach at Idaho State, where he has an overall record of 154-132.
The all-time series between the Aggies and the Bengals is a close one, with Idaho State holding the 16-15 lead. The series dates back to the 1978-79 season, and the teams have met in all but three seasons since the USU program was reinstated. The Bengals hold the advantage in Pocatello (10-5), but the Aggies lead in games played in Logan (10-6). Last season, Utah State hosted Idaho State in the Spectrum, taking the 69-56 win.
Sophomore guard/forward Shannon Dufficy has recorded three double-doubles in USU’s first four games, doing so against UC Irvine (12-12), Dixie State (10-10 and Southern Utah (12-19). Dufficy is one of two players in the Mountain West and one of 23 players nationally to have three or more double-doubles this year. Dufficy now has eight double-doubles in her young career, the fourth-most of any Utah State player since the reinstatement of the program. Ashlee Brown holds the double-double record with 22 in her two-year career with the Aggies. Dufficy ranks fourth behind Brown, Ali (Aird) MarchantAird(12) and Jenna Johnson (11).
BIG SKY COUNTRY
Monday will be Utah State’s second-straight game against an opponent from the Big Sky Conference. The Aggies will also play Montana State next week in the Maui Classic. All-time, Utah State is 78-89 against schools in the Big Sky, facing Idaho State the most of the league’s 12 teams.
HERE, KITTY KITTY
Monday’s game will be the second of four games Utah State will play against a team with a feline mascot. The Aggies have already taken on the Arizona Wildcats and are yet to play the Montana State Bobcats and BYU Cougars after the Idaho State Bengals.
BACK IN THE GAME
Redshirt sophomore guards Lindsey Jensen and Victoria Price are back on the court for the Aggies this season after both redshirting the 2016-17 year. Jensen played in the first game of the year at UC Irvine, her first appearance since March 1, 2016. She took a redshirt year to manage her Type I diabetes diagnosis. Price first played at Southern Utah this season, her first game since Jan. 31, 2016. She suffered an ACL injury in that game at Nevada, and spent the 2016-17 season rehabbing her injury.
THE DUFFICY DEFENSE
In USU’s game at Southern Utah, sophomore guard/forward Shannon Dufficy led the team with a career-high 19 rebounds. Those 19 boards are the most by a Utah State player in a game since 1983, when Sharon Epps tallied a school-record 22 rebounds in three games. Dufficy is now tied for eighth-place on the single-game rebound list with the 19. Additionally, Dufficy is tied for 15th and 21st with single-game performances of 17 and 16 rebounds, respectively, last season. Dufficy currently leads the Mountain West and ranks 17th nationally in rebounding, averaging 12.3 per game.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Utah State players currently lead the Mountain West in scoring and rebounding. Sophomore guard Olivia West is the league’s top scorer, averaging 19.8 points per game. Sophomore guard/forward Shannon Dufficy leads the conference with 12.3 rebounds per game.
START YOUR ENGINES
The Aggie starters have dominated the floor this season, leading the team in minutes, points and rebounds. The starting five have been responsible for at least 70 percent of the statistics in those three categories. The USU starters have put together 217 points and 110 rebounds in 574 minutes played. In last week’s game at Southern Utah alone, the starters scored 58 of the team’s 67 points, while securing 34 of 43 rebounds.
STARTING LINEUP SHIFT
Utah State has used two different starting lineups in its four games this season. Eliza West, Olivia West, Rachel Brewster, Shannon Dufficy and Deja Mason made up the starting five for the first three, before the coaching staff moved to a smaller lineup against Southern Utah. Jessie Geer made her first start of the season against the Thunderbirds, in place of Mason.
OUT-SHOOTING THE OPPONENT
Despite the team’s 1-3 record, Utah State has had a higher field goal percentage than its opponent in all but one game this season. The Aggies shot a season-high 50.9 percent (29-of-57) from the floor in the season opener at UC Irvine. On the year, Utah State is shooting 44.0 percent (109-of-248) from the field, while holding its opponents to a 39.2 (105-of-268) shooting percentage.
A STRONG START
In her first-career start, sophomore guard Olivia West led the Aggies in the team’s loss at UC Irvine with a career-best 32 points. She is the first Aggie to have a 30-point game since the 2015-16 season, when Funda Nakkasoglu scored 30 or more in three games. She is one of two Mountain West players to have a 30-point game this season, along with New Mexico’s Jaisa Nunn who scored 39 points against Marquette. West leads the Aggies in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game while shooting 43.5 percent (27-of-62) from the floor.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Aggies are set to head to the island of Maui next week for a pair of neutral site games against Montana State and No. 18 Oregon State. The Aggies will open the Maui Classic against Montana State on Friday, Dec. 1, at 9 p.m. (MT)., followed by Oregon State on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 11 p.m. (MT).
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