Utah State has another difficult contest on Wednesday evening as it hosts San Diego State. The Aggies are on a 12-game losing streak, but more than that, they’re coming off three ugly losses in a row. Searching for answers, Utah State rolled out a new starting lineup in its loss at Boise State, with Samiana Suguturaga getting her first start for the Aggies. Of course, that isn’t a particularly new phenomenon, as the team's game plan has been shrouded in ambiguity and subject to change all year.
Utah State is 3-15 (0-7) entering the bout, while San Diego State is 12-8 (3-4).
Led by head coach Stacie Terry-Hutson in her 11th year, the Aztecs are mostly solid but can be a bit of a mixed bag. They beat Colorado State in their Mountain West opener and more recently took 25th-ranked UNLV to the final buzzer, coming up just seven points short. But, they also suffered a double-digit loss to Wyoming and an overtime loss to Air Force. After losing three conference games in a row, the Aztecs got back on track Jan. 20 against San Jose State and will be looking to build more momentum against the Aggies.
Players To Know
Abby Prohaska: Prohaska started her career at Notre Dame, and after three years with the Fighting Irish, she’s now in her second season with the Aztecs. The 5-9 guard is San Diego State’s second-leading scorer and the team leader in assists, with her veteran presence playing a big part in SDSU’s deliberate offense and aggressive defense.
Largely due to her high-volume role, touting a 24.6 percent usage rate, she is the most turnover-prone of the bunch, but still only gives the ball away 2.7 times a game. On the season, Prohaska is averaging 11.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game, knocking down 36.7 percent of her field goal tries, 32.1 percent of her threes and an excellent 88.5 percent of free throws with 3.5 attempts per game, second on the team.
Adryana Quezada: A familiar face in Quezada will be returning to Logan. The last time she was here, she donned the Aggie blue and fighting white. This time, she will be in enemy colors.
Quezada was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Aggies in the 2021-22 season, the team’s best campaign in years – and although they lost twice to her future squad, the Aggies won five conference games. Utah State still managed just an 11-19 (5-13) mark, but what success they did have was largely thanks to Quezada doing what she does now for the Aztecs, averaging 15.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 53.6 percent for the Aggies.
After utilizing her redshirt year during the 2022-23 season, the 5-10 forward is back. To the Aggie fans who remember her as a menace around the rim, she will look very familiar. This year, she is leading the Aztecs with 14.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, shooting 54.5 percent from the field. Her 14.7 PPG is not only a team-high, but it’s also the fifth-highest figure in the Mountain West.
Having recruited and coached her, Utah State head coach Kayla Ard has plenty of familiarity with her game, and could help to game plan around it. Quezada is a hard player to stop, but she certainly won’t catch her former program by surprise.
Kim Villalobos: San Diego State’s third-highest scorer and the team leader in steals and blocks, Villalobos is a sound two-way player. Though there’s not much competition on the roster, she’s comfortably SDSU’s most reliable rim protector, averaging 1.2 blocks a game to go with 1.7 SPG, edging out Prohaska (1.4 SPG).
She’s also an active rebounder and distributor, with the second-most rebounds and assists per game on the team, averaging 6.1 boards and 2.5 APG while turning the ball over only 1.7 times per contest.
The senior has four double-doubles, all of which have come in conference play. Her season highs in points, rebounds and blocks have all come against Mountain West opponents, too – she had 18 points against Fresno State, 14 rebounds against Air Force and four blocks against UNLV. On the year, she’s good for 10.2 points per game, shooting just over 40 percent from the field with a team-high 3.7 free-throw attempts a night (though she’s only a 69.7 percent shooter at the stripe).
Stats To Know
Turnover Rate: Here we go again – Utah State draws another opponent that does not turn the ball over frequently. The Aztecs are committing 12.1 turnovers per game, 11th-best in the nation, and have a turnover rate of 15.4 percent. The Aggies, on the other hand, are committing 20.1 TOPG and have a disastrous turnover rate of 25.3 percent. It's been an issue all season, and remains a central concern on Wednesday. Winning games while giving away 25 percent of your possessions is very, very difficult.
Equally important is the ability to force turnovers. Here, Utah State is nearly equally inept, forcing only 13.6 turnovers a game, of which only 6.6 are steals. Cheyenne Stubbs, for the record, is responsible for 1.7 of those, with only one counterpart above 1.0 per game (Skye Miller). Teams can feel pretty comfortable in their offense against the Aggies, and it shows. That’s bad news against a well-structred San Diego State offense, as the Aztecs know they can run their sets without much threat of a possession being cut off early.
Offensive Rebound Rate: The Aztecs, despite being an above-average defensive rebounding team, are woeful on the offensive glass, touting a 25.2 percent offensive rebound rate that ranks 329th nationally.
The Aggies, who grab only 63.8 percent of available defensive boards (319th), aren’t necessarily poised to take advantage of this Aztec deficiency, but could step up to do so. Stubbs leads the team with 65 defensive rebounds on the season, and right behind her are Miller and Suguturaga with 48 apiece. Gracie Johnson, who has only seen playing time in eight games, has already grabbed 20.
Against a weak rebounding SDSU offense, those four players could have an opportunity to grab some boards and limit second chances for a strong attack unit.
Block Rate: The Aztecs are a good shot-blocking team, but what makes this stat so interesting is its similarity to Utah State. These teams don’t share a lot of traits – just look at their records – but here, they find some common ground.
San Diego State has a block rate of 9.4 percent while Utah State has a 9.7 percent block rate, both of which rank well above the national average, checking in within the top 100.
Utah State might sneak away from San Diego State as the season continues, though, thanks to the emergence of Johnson. The freshman is already Utah State’s leading shot blocker with 19, and will almost certainly be in the regular rotation for the remainder of the campaign. SDSU is also reliant on one key shot-blocker, picking up nearly twice as many per game from Villalobos (1.2) than it does from any other player.
Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.