Team Profile: Utah State 68, Wichita State 58
While much of the Eastern time zone slept Saturday night, the Utah State Aggies, one of the most unappreciated mid-major teams in America, added to one of the nation’s most impressive home records. Utah State defeated the Wichita State Shockers 68-58 at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, increasing its home record to a staggering 105-7 since the 2003-04 season – the best home record of any team in the country in that time span.
The Aggies (22-6) steamrolled the Shockers (22-7) as a sellout crowd made it difficult for the visitors to stay in the game. Wichita State had no answer underneath for Tai Wesley, who finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds. Wesley dominated early, scoring nine of the Aggies’ first 11 points.
Utah State also stepped it up on the defensive end, holding Wichita State to a season-low 20 points and just 30 percent shooting from the field in the first half. The defining moment of the half may have been right at the end. With the Aggies up 28-20 and the Shockers holding for the last shot, Pooh Williams stole the ball and hit a running jumper just inside the three-point line at the buzzer, sending the Utah State fans into pandemonium and the Aggies into the locker room with a 30-20 lead.
Wichita State bounced back from the buzzer-beater at the end of the first half by scoring the first six points in the second to cut the lead to 30-26. Utah State responded by going on a 7-0 run of its own to go up 37-26. The Aggies stretched the lead to 47-32 and coasted the rest of the way.
The Aggies were led by a three players who scored in double-figures. Along with Wesley’s 13 points, Nate Bendall had 12 and Brady Jardine added 11 off the bench. Brian Green tallied six points on two three-pointers. Green came into the game blazing from the three-point line in conference play, shooting 70 percent from behind the arc.
The Aggies’ efficient offense, featuring a combination of back-door passes and excellent ball movement, was too much for the Shockers to handle. Utah State shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from the three-point line, and 73 percent from the free-throw line.
NCAA TOURNAMENT IMPLICATIONS: The loss all but ends Wichita State’s chances for an at-large bid, considering its RPI (49) and strength of schedule (129) entering the Utah State matchup. But there’s still hope for the Shockers – they’ll just have to win the Missouri Valley Tournament to earn their spot in the NCAA Tournament. They did split the regular season meeting with Northern Iowa, so a conference tournament championship is not out of the question.
Utah State likely improved its chances of getting an at-large bid. Their RPI (45) and strength of schedule (111) should improve after this win, but they probably need to win their conference tournament to make the Big Dance.
After watching the Aggies, I think they should win their conference tournament and make the NCAAs, where they’ll be an extremely tough out for anyone. They are a well-balanced team that is smart on offense and led the country in three-point percentage (42.6) going into Saturday’s game. They should end up with a seed between 11 and 13 in the NCAAs, and they could pull off an upset in the first round with the potential to make it to the Sweet 16.