Utah State women’s basketball (1-4) is set to begin competition at the 2017 Maui Jim Maui Classic, hosted by Oregon State. While on the island, Utah State will play Montana State (3-2) on Friday, Dec. 1, at 9 p.m. (MT), followed by No. 19/21 Oregon State on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 11 p.m. (MT).
The Maui Jim Maui Classic will be held Dec. 1-2, 2017. The weekend will feature Utah State, along with Montana State, Nevada and host Oregon State. The two-day tournament will feature two games per day, food trucks, entertainment and prizes. The games will be played at War Memorial Gym in Wailuku, Hawaii. In addition to the two games, student-athletes from all four teams will visit elementary schools across the island to emphasize the important role academics play in athletics.
OVER THE AIRWAVES
While there will not be a video feed of the Maui Classic games, live stats will be available. The games will also be broadcast on the radio. 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 BOBCATS
Montana State enters the weekend with a 3-2 record, but will host Wyoming on Wednesday morning before traveling to Hawaii. The Bobcats most recently defeated Montana State-Billings (67-47), with the team’s two losses coming at USC (98-47) and Omaha (64-53).
Montana State returns three starters and five total letterwinners from a year ago, while adding five new players to the team. Last season, the Bobcats went 25-7 overall, including a first-place finish in the Big Sky with a 15-3 ledger. Sophomore forward Madeline Smith leads MSU in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 14.8 points and 11.0 boards per game. As a team, the Bobcats are averaging 59.8 points per game, while allowing 58.2 from its opponents. Montana State is shooting 38.5 percent (106-of-275) from the floor, 29.5 percent (38-of-129) from the 3-point line and 68.2 percent (45-of-66) from the free throw line. A former Utah State assistant coach, Tricia Binford is in her 13th season as the head coach at Montana State, where she has an overall record of 199-168.
The series between Utah State and Montana State dates back to 1978, with the Bobcats leading the meetings, 10-3. All three of USU’s wins over MSU have come at home. Friday will be the first match-up between the teams on a neutral court. The two teams played in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum last season, with the Aggies taking the win, 64-56.
SCOUTING THE BEAVERS
Oregon State has started the season with a 3-2 record, with its two losses coming against Notre Dame and at Duke, each ranked No. 5 and No. 16, respectively. As of Monday’s national rankings, the Beavers are ranked 21st in the AP Poll and 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Oregon State returns two starters and six letterwinners from last season, while welcoming three others to the roster. A year ago, the Beavers claimed the Pac-12 title, going 31-5 overall and 16-2 in conference play. Their season ended in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior center Marie Gulich leads Oregon State with 15.2 points per game, while sophomore guard Mikayla Pivec is averaging a team-high 8.4 rebounds per game. As a team, OSU is averaging 78.4 points per game, while holding its opponents to 56.8, while shooting 51.7 percent (151-of-292) from the floor, 44.5 percent (53-of-119) from the 3-point line and 61.7 percent (37-of-60) from the free throw line. Scott Rueck is in his eighth season as the head coach at Oregon State, where he has an overall record of 156-82.
Utah State and Oregon State have a fairly limited history of competition. The Beavers lead the all-time series, 3-1, dating back to 1980. Utah State’s sole win over OSU came in the 1984-85 season. The teams last met on Nov. 16, 2014, a 95-62 victory for the Beavers in Corvallis.
BIG SKY COUNTRY
Friday will be Utah State’s third-straight game against an opponent from the Big Sky Conference. In the last two weeks, the Aggies dropped games at Southern Utah (70-67) and at Idaho State (64-44). All-time, Utah State is 78-90 against schools in the Big Sky, facing Idaho State the most of the league’s 12 teams.
AGAINST THE PAC
Saturday’s match-up against Oregon State will mark the second of three Pac-12 opponents for the Aggies. Utah State hosted Arizona earlier this season and will welcome Utah to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Monday, Dec. 18. All-time, Utah State is 23-63 against current members of the Pac-12. The Aggies have the most wins against Arizona (eight), while they have played the most games against Utah (36).
AGAINST THE RANKS
In head coach Jerry Finkbeiner’s time at Utah State, the Aggies have played four nationally ranked opponents, losing all four contests. USU played at then-No. 5 Notre Dame in the 2012-13 season, the highest-ranked opponent of the four. Utah State also played Nebraska, Baylor and Oregon State in the two following seasons. Saturday’s game against Oregon State will be USU’s first game against a ranked team since the 2014-15 season.
HERE, KITTY KITTY
Friday’s game will be the third of four games Utah State will play against a team with a feline mascot. The Aggies have already taken on the Arizona Wildcats and the Idaho State Bengals, and are yet to play the Montana State Bobcats and BYU Cougars.
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.
BLOCK THEM OUT
Like she has done each year of her career, junior center Deja Mason leads the Aggies in the block column this season. In the five games this year, Mason has tallied nine blocks. She now has 99 total blocks in her career, which ranks fifth all-time at Utah State. She needs 35 more blocks to set the career block record. Mason tallied 38 blocks as a freshman and 52 last season.
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 17.0 points per game. Sophomore guard/forward Shannon Dufficy leads the conference with 11.0 rebounds per game. Additionally, junior center Deja Mason leads the league with 1.8 blocks per game.
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.
Utah State’s month-long road swing will continue next week, as the Aggies play at in-state opponents BYU and Utah Valley. USU will play at BYU on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 3 p.m. The team will then return to Utah County to take on the Wolverines on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 3 p.m.
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