LOGAN – Things got off to an ugly start the last time the Utah State basketball team met the Falcons. Air Force put 15 points on the scoreboard before USU scored anything. The Aggies eventually took a lead later in the half, but Air Force got the 78-73 New Year’s Eve victory at home.
The Aggie team is hoping to leave the loss in 2016 and grab a win against the Falcons Saturday night in Logan. USU finally picked up its first Mountain West road win Wednesday and now has a 6-10 conference record. Air Force has an even worse 4-11 mark, but is coming off a 23-point win against UNLV. That win broke a six-game losing streak.
USU is currently in ninth place in the conference standings, but only 1.5 games out of seventh. After the game against Air Force Saturday, USU will finish its regular season at UNLV – the last place team in the Mountain West. A conference championship for USU is statistically impossible, but the Aggies can still fight for a winning record and a better spot in the conference tournament.
“We have a lot to play for in terms of record, in terms of seeding, in terms of momentum,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “We’ve talked to our players for the last month that after every game we need to assess and make sure we are getting better. That’s our goal, that we’re getting better.”
Jacob Van led Air Force with 16 points last time against USU. The junior guard is one of four Falcons averaging double figures in scoring, but head coach Dave Pilipovich has made some changes since the last meeting. Van has been coming off the bench.
“Ryan Manning has actually started in place of Van,” Duryea said. “Those two guys are very interchangeable. They kind of switched spots in terms of their roles, but they are very similar players. They can shoot the ball from 3, very aggressive offensively.”
Guard CJ Siples is another that started against USU, but he has been replaced in the starting five by fellow junior Trevor Lyons. Duryea said the biggest change to the Falcons’ lineup has been at the point guard spot, where 6-foot-4 freshman Sid Tomes has been starting.
“He’s a very good shooter,” Duryea said of Tomes. “Gives them some size.”
No matter who plays, Duryea said he is expecting a battle from the Falcons. He said this season’s Air Force team is faster than they have been in the past, and that they are still dangerous from the 3.
“You have to bet them,” he said. “They don’t beat themselves. They’re never the biggest, they’re never the fastest, they’re never the most talented team in the league, but you have to beat them.”
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