With events playing out as they did Tuesday, Utah State will be playing for the right to be at worst a co-Mountain West champion as it takes on San Jose State on the road Wednesday.

Mind you, that co-champion title could be spread among as many as four teams depending on how results pan out later this week (and assuming an Aggie victory tonight for this thought experiment), but a trophy will be coming to Logan regardless should USU prevail over the Spartans in Provident Credit Union Event Center. It wouldn’t guarantee a one seed in the upcoming Mountain West Tournament, though, giving the Aggies plenty to fight for for the remainder of this week.

Victory against SJSU came somewhat easily last time out as Utah State pulled off a 21-point triumph, 82-61 in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The final score was lopsided, but the Aggies didn’t start the game off particularly well. The Spartans jumped out to a six-point lead in the first few minutes of the game, and held a lead as late as 7:33 left in the first half. At that point, the Aggies went on a 10-2 lead to take control of the contest. Early in the second half, USU went on a 12-0 run that pushed the lead to 17 with 14:26 left in the game and SJSU never came closer than 10 the rest of the way.

Utah State’s had an iffy habit of winning big against teams at the bottom of the standings at home and then struggling a bit on the road. The Aggies beat Wyoming, Fresno State and San Jose State by 20-plus points each in the first meeting between USU and the trio of teams, but in the subsequent meetings the games were much more thrilling. The Aggies had to sweat out an eventual eight-point win on the road at Wyoming and barely escaped Fresno State with a road overtime victory.

A repeat of those less-than-stellar performances may not be to Aggie fans’ taste, but Sprinkle said he’d be all for it and for a very good reason.

“I hope we have a repeat. We won those games,” Sprinkle said.

The Spartans will be the latest look into how teams continue to handle Great Osobor in the post. Recent Aggie opponents like Air Force and Fresno State threw every post player on the court at Osobor whenever he touched the ball. SJSU may opt for a similar strategy seeing as Osobor scored 31 points in the previous matchup, something helped along by his 19 free throw attempts (of which he made 13).

Of some note to the discussion of guarding Osobor is the recent absence of Spartans usual starting center Adrame Diongue. He’s not appeared in any of SJSU’s last three games, though he isn’t listed as injured anywhere. The 7-footer started against the Aggies in the earlier matchup, scoring six points, grabbing two rebounds with two steals and four fouls in 17 minutes. In his place, freshman forward Diogo Seixas has started the last three games. Seixas has averaged 3.7 points, 1.2 rebounds this season.

However SJSU guards Osobor, it’ll require more from the forward himself who’s not found a consistent way to counter the swarms of opposing post players. He’s averaged just 12.9 points in his last seven outings, compared to 19.0 prior to this seven-game span.

“He’s looked flustered at times during some of the games and he’s looked tired at times,” Sprinkle said. “And so we’ve done we’ve tried to do some things to not only freshen him up but our whole team, mentally, physically all that. But he’s got to do a better job of creating angles and posting up harder. He’s still trying to side post too much and teams are fighting around and getting around him. Even Air Force, with guys that are a lot smaller than him, they were outworking him in the post. And that’s unacceptable. He’s got to get down there, and he’s got to be the hog he is, and he’s got to be able to show his numbers and catch that thing and score and get fouled.”

Along with getting more from Osobor, the Aggies will look to continue to draw more on the supporting cast. USU’s been carried by fantastic supplemental performances from the likes of Darius Brown, Ian Martinez, Mason Falslev and Josh Uduje. Each have recorded a 20-point game since the start of February and USU is 7-1 when any of those players reaches 20 points.

San Jose State’s own weapons can be a headache to deal with. With Seixas out on the floor as a starter, the Spartans come out of the gates with a five-out lineup, with all five starters shooting north of the NCAA 3-point average. And an underrated breakout player for SJSU the last couple weeks has been Latrell Davis. Coming off the bench most of the year, he’s averaged 12.2 points over the Spartans’ last five games. He’s gone from playing inconsistent minutes to being a borderline starter in how much he plays (at least 26 minutes in each of his last three appearances).

Strengthening SJSU’s ability to stretch the floor is the play of its point guard, Alvaro Cardenas. He’s shooting 39.4 percent from deep himself, but just as dangerous is his ability to find the right pass to an open man. Cardenas is averaging 5.3 assists and Sprinkle had simple, but high praise for the junior guard.

“He’s one of the top point guards in the country, in my estimation,” Sprinkle said.

In the previous matchup, guarding Cardenas well (holding him to just under his averages with 11 points, five assists) and limiting the Spartans’ 3-point shooting (5 of 23) were huge keys in the Aggie victory. Guarding threes all season is something USU’s been particularly good at, ranking second in the country in opponents’ 3-point percentage (27.7 percent).

“A lot of it’s the way we guard. We don’t switch a lot so you’re staying with your own guy,” Sprinkle said. “We’re not getting caught up in, you know, sometimes when teams switch two guys go with the same guy and you give up some open threes. But it’s one of our focuses, we know we’re not a tremendous 3-point shooting team so we have to do a great job guarding the 3-point line.”

If Utah State sticks to that trend of holding teams below 30 percent shooting from deep most nights, then victory, and a share of the conference title, is a virtual certainty.

Projected Starters

Utah State: 24-5 (12-4, 1st in MW)

  • G — Darius Brown (6-2, Sr.) – 11.9 points | 4.1 rebounds | 6.3 assists

  • G — Mason Falslev (6-3, Fr.) – 11.3 points | 4.4 rebounds | 2.5 assists

  • G — Ian Martinez (6-3, Jr.) – 13.2 points | 3.7 rebounds | 1.8 assists
  • G — Josh Uduje (6-5, Jr.) – 6.5 points | 3.2 rebounds | 0.9 assists

  • F — Great Osobor (6-8, Jr.) – 17.8 points | 9.1 rebounds | 3.0 assists

San Jose State: 9-21 (2-15, 10th in MW)

  • G — Alvaro Cardenas (6-1, Jr.) — 12.9 points | 3.1 rebounds | 5.3 assists
  • G — MJ Amey (6-5, Jr.) — 15.5 points | 5.0 rebounds | 3.1 assists
  • F — Trey Anderson (6-6, Sr.) – 11.1 points | 4.3 rebounds | 1.3 assists

  • F — Diogo Seixas (6-8, Fr.) – 3.7 points | 1.2 rebounds | 0.5 assists

  • F — Tibet Gorener (6-9, Sr.) – 11.6 points | 4.0 rebounds | 0.8 assists

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