Utah State student section, the HURD, in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Feb. 10, 2024. Photo by Robert K. Scott.

LOGAN — Utah State’s 72-60 win over Air Force was quite literally a bloody one, although the blood content provided more drama than the on-court action at times as the Aggies led by double figures for most of the second half.

Mason Falslev, Great Osobor, Ian Martinez and even head coach Danny Sprinkle took cuts that drew blood at some point during the game, though it was Osobor’s cut that produced the most blood and the longest stint off the court.

Sprinkle didn’t elaborate on when he got his cut, simply alluding to breaking a clipboard as he “had to get my point across.” The Aggies needed a bit of a wake-up call early in the second half as what had been a 13-point halftime lead (and as high as 15 in the first half overall) had dropped all the way to seven. Air Force outscored USU 8-2 in the opening four minutes of the second frame.

At the tail end of that Falcons’ run was when Osobor sustained his injury that forced him out for an extended stretch. With 15:47 on the clock, Osobor was hooked by Falcons’ guard Kellan Boylan as the Aggie big cut to the basket and tripped due to the contact. On his way down Osobor’s head struck another player’s knee, drawing blood from his forehead. USU trainers attended to Osobor for a minute before immediately taking him to the locker room. Osobor wouldn’t return until there was just over seven minutes remaining.

Neither Air Force’s run nor Osobor’s extended absence seemed to bother the Aggies’ too much (he actually only had two points when he went out). The Falcons didn’t get any closer than the seven-point deficit the moment Osobor left the game, USU actually pushed the lead back up to 11 by the time he returned.

Martinez took on the scoring mantle in place of Osobor, not only while the bigman was out, but for the entire game as Osobor finished with just six points. Martinez had 14 in the first half to power the Aggies’ push to a double-digit lead. He then added seven points in the second half, all of which came with Osobor out of the game.

The high-scoring game for Martinez not only led the way to victory, but also broke up a spell of cold-shooting nights for the senior guard. Over his last seven games, prior to tonight, Martinez had shot just 31 percent from the field.

“It feels good to start getting back into my rhythm,” Martinez said. “And being able to help this team team a little bit more offensively.”

The kill shot of the game, which ended most of the hopes of an Air Force comeback, was a seven-minute stretch where the Aggies held the Falcons scoreless. Utah State didn’t explode on offense itself, but did push its lead to a game-high 19 with 5:27 on the clock. Air Force would rally back to within 12, but it was far too little and far too late.

Falslev’s defense, in particular, proved to be of immense importance in this stretch. He drew one of the most difficult matchups, having to guard the 6-foot-7 wing Rytis Petraitis. And despite giving up four inches of height, Falslev made life tough on the Falcons’ leading scorer. Petraitis hit a few shots in the first half, scoring 10, but shot 2-for-10 in the second half, finishing with just 14 points on 7 of 19 shooting.

“(Petraitis is) one of the hardest guards (to defend) in the league, you know, because he’s so big and physical,” Sprinkle said. “But I thought Mason did a great job. Even the shots (Petraitis) made in the first half, those were heart shots. He had one as a left-handed bank shot down there but I thought Mason was tremendous.”

It wasn’t just Falslev getting in on the defense, though, as Martinez, Darius Brown, Javon Jackson (and Falslev) all picked up multiple steals. Osobor added four blocks which tied his career high. And aside from Martinez’s 21 points, the Aggies got double-figure scoring from Josh Uduje (11), Brown (10) and Falslev (10).

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