WBB Preview: Utah State Finishes Regular Season Against League Leaders
7 min read

WBB Preview: Utah State Finishes Regular Season Against League Leaders

It's senior night for Utah State WBB, as the Aggies host the Mountain West's best team in UNLV for their regular season finale. WBB Preview:
WBB Preview: Utah State Finishes Regular Season Against League Leaders
Photo via Lucas Peltier/UNLV Athletics

Utah State’s conference run will end the way it began on Wednesday night, against league-leading UNLV. When the teams met last, Utah State was green and full of hope, struggling through non-conference play but optimistic about a Mountain West turnaround. Now, the Aggies are 14 games back with one game to play, likely headed for the No. 11 seed in the MWC tournament.

Then, UNLV was good. Now, it is better. The Rebels have a full head of steam with 11 consecutive wins going back to Jan. 24, and look every bit like the team to beat for the MWC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which they claimed in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

The game itself wasn’t pretty. Playing in Las Vegas, Utah State fell 107-68 – which is still the highest-scoring game of the season for the Rebels, and one of three games in which they reached triple digits.

Unsurprisingly, the two sides have taken opposite paths since that meeting. UNLV has suffered only one loss in MWC play, a shocking 69-66 defeat against New Mexico, and sits at 26-2 overall (16-1 in the MWC). Utah State, meanwhile, has managed to topple its four wins in 2022-23, but only by one game. The Aggies are 5-23 (2-15), fresh off one of their worst losses of the season in a beatdown at Air Force.

Even with a regular season MWC title and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament clinched, UNLV isn’t showing signs of letting up. In its most recent outing, the Rebels claimed a colossal 100-41 victory over San Diego State.

The 23rd-ranked team in the nation now has its eyes fixed on something greater. UNLV is now playing for seeding in the NCAA tournament. Last year, the Rebels, an 11 seed, fell 71-59 to sixth-seeded Michigan in the first round. They suffered a similar fate in the 2022 tournament, drawing a No. 13 seed and narrowly falling to Arizona in the opening round, 72-67. This time, they hope to set themselves up for more postseason success by closing out the year as strong as they can. HerHoopStats.com currently has UNLV listed as a No. 8 seed in its bracketology, with room to move even higher if it runs the table down the stretch.

Utah State seemingly has little to play for. With the prospect of a five-win season and another last-place finish quickly solidifying, the Aggies are pretty well set at this point. This being the final game of the regular season, there are many things the Aggies can no longer achieve, but there are a few things still on the board. A stunning upset would move them into the No. 10 seed for the MWC tournament – a small consolation, sure, but one Utah State would gladly take.

Beyond that, with this being the last home game of the season, it's senior night for the Aggies. This team has just one senior, Allyzee Verdan. The forward from French Guiana spent three seasons at Salt Lake Community College before joining the Aggies for her senior year, and has averaged 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds this season.

Players To Know

Alyssa Durazo-Frescas: Due to a leg injury, Durazo-Frescas only played eight minutes against the Aggies earlier this year. Luckily, by the end of the game, she was back on the bench with her team enjoying the 39-point victory. She did not return that game but didn’t miss much time, returning to the lineup, albeit in a limited capacity, in UNLV's next outing.

Because of this, Utah State has not had a good look at Durazo-Frescas, the tremendously accurate three-point threat who adds quite a bit of edge to an already excellent offense. In the eight minutes she did play, she had seven points, a rebound, two assists and two steals. She was just 1 of 2 from deep, but other than that, it was a pretty good sample of what Durazo-Frescas can do.

She is one of the conference's most accurate three-point scorers, hitting 2.3 a night on average, good for third-best in the MWC. One thing Utah State certainly didn’t see from her last game is her versatility. Her shooting is excellent, yes, but she's good at just about everything on the offensive end. She can put a ball into the net seemingly from anywhere on the court, whether it comes from a pass or off the dribble, and she's a willing passer within a system that touts plenty of weapons.

She is averaging 8.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, boasting an impressive 44.8 percent three-point hit rate. If her last game is any indication of her rhythm (as is often the case with players like her), the Aggies could be facing the full wrath of Durazo-Frescas, making up for her absence last time around. She had 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting from deep (the only shots she took all night), four rebounds, six assists and four steals.

Ashley Scoggin: Scoggin played two years at Nebraska before landing at UNLV, and didn’t make an immediate impact when she did. Last year, she didn’t start any games, played just under eight minutes a game, and averaged two points as she dealt with an injury.

Now, as a senior, it's starting to come together for the 5-7 guard. She has started 25 of 28 games for the Rebels, plays over 20 minutes, and has more than tripled her scoring. She is the sixth leading scorer, but on a team as stacked as this one, that is far from a disappointing place to be. She averages 7.4 points per game, which would be good enough for second on Utah State.

Scoggin is a valuable role player who can fill a variety of needs for the team. She doesn’t need the offense to flow through her, but when her name is called, can step up to add some major points, such as her 18-point game against Northern Arizona. Along the way, she is sure to be productive everywhere else, getting enough rebounds, assists, and steals to make her indispensable. She is averaging 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists to go with her scoring output, while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and an outstanding 93.3 percent at the free-throw stripe.

She wasn’t quiet when UNLV hosted the Aggies, standing out with a 13-point game, second among starters and third among all Rebels. With the early departure of Durazo-Frescas, the bulk of the three-point responsibilities fell to her. She stepped up to the task well enough but was not efficient, needing plenty of volume to fill her quota. She went 3 of 11 from deep and attempted only two shots from inside the arc all night. She had two rebounds and a steal against the Aggies as well.

Scoggin is coming off a 17-point game, and has averaged 11 points per game in her last three appearances.

Desi-Rae Young: On their high-flying journey to Mountain West supremacy and national recognition, the Rebels have been led by their frontcourt aficionado, Young.

Considered one of the best scorers in the conference several years running, Young has left little doubt about that all year long, and that was certainly true against the Aggies. Young dropped 31 points on Utah State, edging out Cheyenne Stubbs (who had 30) for the game-high while leading her team to the 39-point victory. When she wasn’t busy scoring, she was hard at work filling out the rest of her stat line, earning nine rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.

Though she's a high-volume piece of the Rebel offense, touting a 30.2 percent usage rate that leads the team, her efficiency has never been called into question. She's one of just 11 players in college basketball with a usage rate above 30 percent and an effective field goal percentage above 55 percent (minimum 15 games and 20 minutes per game). Scoring 18.9 points a game, she is the second-leading scorer in the conference, coming just behind McKenna Hofschild. The last (and only) time she was held to single-digit scoring this season was on Dec. 16, in a six-point performance amid the team's loss to Seton Hall.

Young isn’t just an unrelenting scorer, she is a commanding rebounder. She patrols the post with authority, leading the conference in rebounding with 9.3 boards a night. Again, she's in great company there as one of just eight players in the nation to log at least 18 points and nine rebounds per game. Only Elizabeth Kitley of Virginia Tech and Angel Reese of LSU, two of the best players in the sport, have averaged more points and rebounds per game.

Her scoring and rebounding expertise make her a prime candidate for earning double-doubles, of which she has 13. She is coming off a frighteningly efficient performance against San Diego State. As the team won by 59 points, her services were not needed for much of the game and she played just 21 minutes, but she made them count. Young had 21 points on 10 field goal attempts, seven rebounds, and five assists. Her point-a-minute performance was a dizzying display of what she is capable of.

Stats To Know

Rebound Rate: The Rebels are monstrous on the boards. They attack the window, snapping up any shot that ricochets off the mark. This effort is led by Young, but she has backup. Alyssa Brown is the third-leading rebounder in the conference, snatching 8.2 a night, while two other players are up above 4.5 rebounds a game.

UNLV grabs 33.3 percent of its available offensive rebounds and a tremendous 78.7 percent of defensive rebounds, the best defensive rebounding rate in the county. Its total rebound rate of 56.4 percent ranks eighth nationally.

Turnover Percentage: UNLV is so precise and deliberate with the ball that it sometimes seems to be playing the game at a different speed than its opponents. The Rebels think fast, always staying at least one step ahead, and they rarely move the ball without a purpose. Their passes are crisp and progressive, and their dribbling is as secure as it comes.

In turn, the Rebels commit just 10.7 turnovers per game, the second-lowest figure in the country. Their turnover rate, also the second-lowest in the country, is 12.9 percent, while their steal rate (5.6 percent) leads the nation.

Points Per Play: A series of above-average shooting percentages along with careful shot selection unleashes a well-oiled scoring machine. The Rebels are exhaustingly efficient. They score 1.10 points per scoring attempt, good for 25th nationally. Utah State, for reference, scores 0.93 points per attempt (257th).

Combined with the efficiencies described above, it's just about impossible to consistently keep UNLV off the scoreboard. The Rebels are ninth in points per 100 possessions (111.8), with a top-25 shooting offense and an overall unit that averages a hair under 80 points per game (79.3).

Parker Ballantyne covers Utah State women's basketball for The Aggship. You can follow him on Twitter at @PShark14 for updates on the Aggies.