Utah St. Aggies vs. Air Force Falcons Pick & Prediction MARCH 1st 2024

Darius Brown II said No. 22 Utah State shouldn’t have been in the situation in which it found itself on Tuesday night at Fresno State.

But Brown made sure to bail the Aggies out of it. He banked in a 3-pointer with under two seconds left to force overtime and then converted again from beyond the arc with 34 seconds remaining to give Utah State a 77-73 win that kept the team in a first-place tie in the Mountain West Conference.

The Aggies (23-5, 11-4) will aim for an easier time Friday night when they host Air Force in Logan, Utah.

Utah State was fortunate to beat a team coming off a 32-point loss Saturday night to San Diego State. The Aggies committed 17 turnovers vs. Fresno State, nine coming from the starting guards. Coach Danny Sprinkle called it their sloppiest game of the season.

“We need to play better,” he said.

But Utah State figured out a way to win; that’s been its modus operandi in close games. The Aggies are 8-0 in games decided by five points or less. That’s how a good season morphs into a potentially special season.

“There was a whole new energy when we got to overtime,” Brown said. “Everyone came alive.”

The Aggies are tied with Boise State (11-4) atop the league standings, with San Diego State (11-5) on their heels. And the schedule favors Utah State with its toughest game — vs. New Mexico — at home on March 9 with a trip to San Jose State preceding it on Wednesday.

The Broncos and Aztecs will play each other next weekend in San Diego.

Brown finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists at Fresno State. Great Osobor, who leads the team with per-game averages of 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds, went for 21 and 11, respectively, on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Air Force (9-18, 2-13) followed its best win of the season, a 78-77 decision on Saturday at New Mexico, by getting blown out 79-48 against visiting Boise State on Tuesday. The Falcons trailed by just two points at halftime but were outscored 51-22 in the second half.

“Our margin for error is so thin that everybody that goes out there has to play well,” Air Force coach Joe Scott said. “We didn’t have that (energy) from certain guys tonight.”

The Falcons gave up 30 points in the paint, but Scott said their offense played a bigger role in the collapse. Air Force hit only 35 percent from the floor in the second half, including 1 of 8 on 3-pointers.

“Our offense let us down today,” Scott said. “Our offense didn’t have enough variety to it. We had too many possessions where there wasn’t enough oomph in it.”

Rytis Petraitis, who had 19 points and nine rebounds in the losing effort, leads the team in scoring (15.2 ppg), rebounding (6.0) and assists (3.7). Ethan Taylor and Beau Becker each chip in 14.4 ppg, with Becker hitting 40.3 percent of his 3-pointers.

Utah State claimed an 88-60 win over Air Force on Jan. 2 in each team’s conference opener as Osobor dominated inside for 32 points and nine rebounds.

–Field Level Media

Docsports, The most trusted name in sports handicapping