Utah State wants to respond to loss to San Diego State Aztecs

Utah State lost in the Mountain West semifinal, 86-70, on Friday.

Utah State center Isaac Johnson (20) grabs a rebound next to San Diego State forward Elijah Saunders (25) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference men’s tournament Friday, March 15, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)

Utah State left Las Vegas too early for the Aggies’ liking, losing to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference semifinal Friday.

But there are some things head coach Danny Sprinkle won’t miss after a regular season filled with heavyweight league battles.

“Even looking at all these signs, I’m tired of seeing some of these logos,” Sprinkle said. “But that’s the great thing about the Mountain West is it builds you for the tournament because every game is like a tournament game.”

And after suffering an 86-70 defeat to the Aztecs, Sprinkle thinks his Aggies still have some building to do before they head to the NCAA Tournament.

“I told them we have a lot of work to do,” the coach said. “Thank God that we still have one more game. A lot of teams don’t have another game.”

USU led early in Friday’s semifinal, using a 22-2 run to build a 34-17 lead in the first half. But the Aztecs came storming back to beat the Aggies for the second time in three meetings this year.

Utah State’s Great Osobor led the Aggies with 19 points and five rebounds. Ian Martinez had 16 points, and Isaac Johnson had 11.

Jaedon LeDee scored 22 points and Lamont Butler added 16, leading five San Diego State players in double figures.

“Any time you lose, it shows what you need to work on,” Sprinkle said. “We still have to clean some things up, even though it’s March, like every team. Going into this tournament … we’re going to have to be running on a high level if we want to have a chance. Because every team we play from here on out is going to be a great team.”

As of Friday night, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi was projecting the Aggies as a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“We only have a handful of guys that have played in the NCAA Tournament or have witnessed it,” Sprinkle said. “You have to play desperate. You have to play desperate, and you have to be tough and physical. I expect our team to respond.

“Sometimes losing games helps you win the next game. I think that’s going to be the case with this because it showed what we need to work on this time of year. When it’s March, you have to put your big boy pants on, man. It’s go time. We had a couple of guys that did not do that today. We’ll make sure that they’re ready whether it’s Thursday or Friday, whenever we play.”

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