Utah State vs. Fresno State: Game Preview
The Aggies travel to Fresno to take on the Bulldogs with a four game winning streak in mind.
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Utah State needs four wins to secure second place in the Mountain West, and that campaign starts Saturday night.
WHO: Utah State Aggies (20-7, 9-5 Mountain West) At Fresno State Bulldogs (9-16, 5-9 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, February 15th—7:00 PM PST/8:00 PM MST/9:00 PM EST
WHERE: Save Mart Center, Fresno, CA
STREAM: Get a free trial through FuboTV
SERIES RECORD: Utah State leads all-time series 38-24
This mid-afternoon match up in the Central Valley comes with big implications for the Aggies and a chance for the Bulldogs to avenge their seven-point OT loss to then No. 25 Utah State back in Logan on December 7th.
That December 7th match up was also Neemias Queta’s first return back to the hardwood after rehabbing a knee injury suffered over the summer playing for the Portuguese men’s national team. For Queta shaking off a bit of rust was very apparent, scoring only 6 points on 6/7 made free throws but missing all three of his field goal attempts. Now Queta and the Aggies travel west to Fresno for a match up with tournament positioning on the line. And even though both are fighting for very different positions on the bracket, both know what’s at stake.
Utah State is playing to help secure a second place finish in the Mountain West after San Diego State clinched the regular season title with their Tuesday night win over New Mexico. They are currently in a three-way tie for second with the Boise State Broncos and the Nevada Wolf Pack, but have the easiest final four games of those three teams to finish out the regular season. But four straight wins should secure at least a share of second place and position them nicely for a deep conference tournament run where they can hope for a second consecutive tournament championship and NCAA tournament berth.
The Bulldogs are a talented team, but don’t have the regular season resume to expect any sort of post season automatic bids. Their only way to the big dance will be a conference tournament championship, and to make that road smoother requires a strong performance in their final four games to afford them a higher tournament seed.
Matchup(s) of the night: Battle of the bigs
F Nate Grimes Fresno State vs. F Neemias Queta Utah State
The Stats: Grimes (12.0 PPG 9.8 RPG & 1.5 BPG) and Queta (12.4 PPG 6.8 RPG & 1.5 BPG)
As well as,
F Orlando Robinson Fresno State vs. F Justin Bean Utah State
The Stats: Robinson (13.1 PPG 7.2 RPG & 1.7 APG) and Bean (12.2 PPG 10.2 RPG & 1.5 SPG)
There are several exciting position battles in this match up as Fresno State’s frosh have been an exciting bunch all season long. But where this game may be won tonight is in the post, as each team has two big men that can have a major impact to help win the game.
We can start with the visiting Aggies who will start Neemias Queta and Justin Bean, or at least should. Bean is in a close second behind Nico Carvacho (10.8) to lead the conference in rebounds at 10.2 RPG. And makes a lot of his money off of second chance boards, which shouldn’t be a problem with as many times this group gets shots up.
Queta who has been playing at the level maybe most expected him to be at after a sophomore jump, has been a force in the month of February. His overall season totals aren’t much of an improvement on his numbers last year as a freshman but his performance over the last three games (all wins), 18.6 PPG 8.3 RPG and 3.0 BPG is a trend in the right direction.
Now the hosting Bulldogs have one of the more underrated frontcourt tandems on the west coast, in senior Nate Grimes and freshman Orlando Robinson. Grimes is a double-double machine, with nine so far this season and three in his last four games.
While Robinson may very much be the future for Fresno State in the Mountain West, his play tonight is still vital to an upset of the Aggies at home. These guys aren’t just rebounders and can score when fed the ball down low. If the shots aren’t falling on the perimeter expect a lot of touches in the post from these two tonight.
Prediction: Utah State 88, Fresno State 70
The Aggies are deeper and boast more experience than this Bulldog team, but the last time these teams faced off produced a closer result than you’d of thought and even went to overtime. Fresno State is 3-2 over their last five games and do lead the all-time series between these two when played in Fresno, at 16-10.
If Utah State wins the battle of the bigs and Sam Merrill who just hit 2,000 career points mark in his career has a productive night on top of that, than the score predicted above isn’t too far fetched.