Utah State smashes San Diego to move to 8-1

Utah State smashes San Diego to move to 8-1

LOGAN — The Aggies’ torrid shooting was too much for the Toreros.

Utah State shot just under 60% from the Spectrum floor on its way to a 108-81 rout of San Diego Wednesday night. The 108 points was a season-high for the Aggies (8-1), who connected on 65.6% of their attempts in the first half and led by as many as 37 points.

“It boosts our confidence for upcoming games,” senior guard Ian Martinez said. “We’ve got to defend our home court, so it’s pretty fun to come in here and give the people a show.”

All 13 USU players who saw action scored on Wednesday, but only four reached double figures. Freshman guard Mason Falsev (7 for 10, 17 points), junior forward Great Osobor (5 for 7, 14 points), Martinez (13 points) and sophomore forward Nigel Burris (10 points) led the way offensively for Utah State. 

“That’s huge because we have to be a strength in numbers team,” USU head coach Danny Sprinkle said of his squad’s balanced offense. “We have to be able to have multiple guys scoring on different nights, and I know things are going to get tougher, so we need to have everybody engaged.”

Down 12-8 to start the game, the Aggies scored 15 straight points against the Toreros (6-4), who lost at Stanford 88-64 on Sunday.

Sprinkle admitted to being disappointed early on because he didn’t feel he team was playing hard enough, but going down his bench and playing a few young Aggies like 6-foot-11 forward Kalifa Sakho (4 for 4, eight points and two blocks) and sophomore guard Javon Jackson (six points), who haven’t seen much action the past couple of weeks in the first half, ended up paying big dividends. 

“I think we got the message across, and a couple of guys who have been playing a lot of minutes didn’t play as many tonight because their intensity on the defensive end wasn’t as good as it needed to be,” Sprinkle said. “… I keep telling these guys that we’re so hard on them as coaches because we know what’s coming up down the road in the Mountain West. 

“We have a lot of habits that need to continue to change because one possession of losing a shooter on a scouting report is something that can cost you a Mountain West game.”

Utah State led 53-36 at halftime, then blistered the nets early in the second half, knocking down 72.2% of its field-goal attempts and going 13 of 14 from the free-throw line before USD head coach Steve Lavin called a timeout with 8:44 left and his team trailing 94-62.

“We play in four-minute chunks, and before the game, I challenged our guys to win all 10 chunks,” Sprinkle said.

“I knew we were capable of doing that if we defended the way we were supposed to, and we ended up winning nine out of those 10 chunks.”

Junior guard Deuce Turner put up a team-high 17 points for San Diego, which ended up getting clobbered despite shooting 47.6% as a team, including a 9-of-24 performance from 3-point range. 

In last year’s game at San Diego, Utah State topped the Toreros in overtime by a 91-89 margin, and while USD’s Eric Williams Jr. put up 43 points in the loss, Utah State didn’t return any of the nine players to see action in that game.

Newcomer Martinez went 5 for 7 from the field for the Aggies on Wednesday, including a high-flying dunk early in the second half off of a pass from point guard Darius Brown II, who ended up with six assists, nine points and zero turnovers. 

It was the kind of performance Sprinkle was anticipating when he recruited Martinez, a former Maryland Terrapin (and Utah Ute) originally from Costa Rica, but wasn’t sure he would ever see until Martinez was finally cleared to play shortly after USU’s exhibition contest and first game in early November.

“I never thought I was going to hear the answer; it was crazy,” Martinez said of waiting for the NCAA to make a decision on his eligibility after transferring to Utah State. “It was a really hard six months working through the process and not knowing anything, not knowing what’s going to happen. 

“Sitting out those games and having to watch was hell for me. It was hell, but my team was there to support me, and I’m happy about being able to play with them. It’s been awesome.”

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