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It’s a semifinal matchup of the Mountain West Tournament coming to you live from Sin City. The third-seeded Fresno State Bulldogs battle the second-seeded Utah State Aggies Friday night with the winner advancing to the title game. Fresno State dropped sixth-seeded Air Force 76-50 in the quarterfinals Thursday night to advance. Utah State held off seventh-seeded New Mexico 91-83 in their quarterfinal tilt Thursday night. The Aggies lead the all-time series between the teams 34-25: this season, the teams split two meetings, each winning on the road. In the last matchup, it was Utah State taking an 82-81 victory on February 5.
Fresno State Bulldogs Seek to Stay Hot, Reach Title Game
Fresno State’s hot shooting carried them again as they pulled away to put Air Force away and advance to the semifinals. The Bulldogs ran their record to 23-8 on the season with the victory and seek to down the Aggies here. Fresno State trailed 13-6 just over four minutes into the game before ripping off a 23-1 run to take control: their lead never dipped below 11 the rest of the way. The Bulldogs shot 45.9 percent from the field, including 16 of 38 from three-point range, and forced 18 Air Force turnovers in the contest. Fresno State was led by Deshon Taylor, who had 18 points, five rebounds and 10 assists in the win.
— Fresno State Men’s Basketball (@FresnoStateMBB) March 15, 2019
The Bulldogs are putting up an average of 77 points a game in the early going this season. Fresno State grabs 35.9 rebounds a game while dishing out 14.4 assists per contest. The Bulldogs are 73rd in scoring defense by allowing 67 points per game. Braxton Huggins leads the team with 18.7 points per game. New Williams (8.4 points, 3.2 boards) and Deshon Taylor (18.4 points, five assists) are solid scoring options for the Bulldogs. Nate Grimes (11.5 points, 9.3 rebounds), Noah Blackwell, Johnny McWilliams, Christian Gray, Lazaro Rojas, Sam Bittner and Aguir Agau are all key pieces of the rotation for Fresno State. The Bulldogs are shooting 45.6 percent from the field as a team this season. Fresno State shoots 38.7 percent from beyond the arc while splashing 10.9 triples a night. The Bulldogs have been good at the charity stripe, converting 71.8 percent of their opportunities this season.
Utah State Aggies Shoot to Reach Championship Game
Utah State was projected to finish seventh in the Mountain West this season yet tied for the regular season crown. The Aggies, who improved to 26-6 on the year, now look to punch their ticket to the conference tournament title game with a win here. Utah State was tied at the half and was in a tight one all the way with the Lobos. The Aggies were tied at 78 with 3:14 to play before kicking into another gear: they reeled off a 10-2 run to go up 88-80 with 37 seconds to play and that sealed the deal. Utah State shot 53.2 percent from the field, including six of 13 from three-point range, and connected on 35 of 45 free throws while winning the rebounding battle 46-28. Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 23 points and nine assists despite playing with four fouls down the stretch.
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) March 15, 2019
The Aggies are putting up an average of 79.5 points per game on the season. Utah State puts up an average of 40.2 rebounds per contest and dishes out 17.3 assists a night. The Aggies are 58th in scoring defense as they give up just 67.3 points a night. Sam Merrill leads the team with 21 points and 4.3 assists a game. Neemias Queta is the only other player in double figures as he averages 11.8 points plus 8.8 rebounds a night. Brock Miller, Dwayne Brown Jr., John Knight III, Quinn Taylor, Tauriwan Knight and Diogo Brito are solid role players for the Aggies this season. Utah State is shooting 47.5 percent from the floor as a team. The Aggies hit 7.8 treys a night but are hitting 35.5 percent on their shooting from beyond the arc. Utah State is very good at the line as they’re sinking 74.9 percent of their chances on the year.
- Aggies are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games after scoring more than 90 points in their previous game
- Aggies are 13-3 ATS in their last 16 Friday games
- No Key Trends
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Five of the last six meetings between these teams have been decided by three points or less. This season, both games were decided by a single point. This one is going to be a tight one all the way, which is going to test Utah State, as they had a fight on their hands before dispatching New Mexico. Fresno State was up double digits for the final 30 minutes of their win over Air Force, which gave them a chance to give their key guys a breather. Utah State can ill afford to turn the ball over as much as they did against the Lobos. This one goes down to the wire but the Aggies feel they have unfinished business with Nevada. That helps spur them to the championship game with a razor-thin victory here.
With these two teams, you can expect a lot of highly entertaining basketball. Both teams are extremely dangerous offensively and effective on the defensive end of the floor. Fresno State is 77th in scoring offense and 58th in scoring defense this season. On the other side of the coin, Utah State is 39th in scoring offense and 66th in scoring defense. One critical thing to keep an eye on here is how Fresno State shoots from the perimeter: they hit a total of 39 three-pointers in their last two games and rank 20th in the nation in three-point shooting. Utah State is just 261st in three-point field goal percentage defense as opposing teams shoot 35.7 percent from beyond the arc against them. The Aggies are 11th overall in field goal percentage defense (39.2 percent), while Fresno State is 67th (41.7 percent) in that category. Can Utah State keep the Bulldogs’ perimeter assault in check?
Prediction: Utah State
Full-Game Total Pick
The over is 6-0 in the Bulldogs’ last 6 vs. a team with a winning straight up record. Utah State has seen the over go 4-1 in their last five overall, 4-1 in their last five against Mountain West opponents, 4-1 in their last five after a straight up win and 9-3 in their last 12 against teams with a winning record. The over is 6-2 in the last eight meetings: given the way we know both teams can play, it would surprise no one to see this one go over the total.