USU hosts Air Force in final home game of season

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LOGAN — With the USU men's basketball team sitting at 12-15 overall and 6-10 in Mountain West Conference play, some might think there isn't much the Aggies are playing for when they host Air Force in the final home game of the season on Saturday night.

If the MWC tournament were to start today, USU would enter as the ninth seed and play the eigth-seed Wyoming Cowboys. USU and Wyoming split the season series.

However, the Aggies have the potential to earn the seventh seed if they can win and if Wyoming or San Jose State stumble down the stretch. USU owns the tiebreaker over the Cowboys and the Spartans.

"I think it is huge," USU head coach Tim Duryea said. "For us to put us in a situation where we can get onto a winning streak would be huge for our mindset and for our confidence and for our energy."

It all starts on Saturday night for USU and they face an Air Force team that has struggled to an 11-17 record overall and 4-11 record in conference play.

"I'm always impressed with Air Force," Duryea said. "They play everybody so competitively, nine nights out of 10. Whether it is at home, on the road, you know what you're going to get with them. They are going to battle you. They are going to be competitive.

"It doesn't matter what atmosphere they are put in, they stay within themselves and run their system and know who they are. They know what they do well. You have to beat them. They don't beat themselves."

USU is coming off its first road win of the conference season. The Aggies beat San Jose State 81-75 on Wednesday night, and freshman guards Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill got back on track after struggling against San Diego State and Nevada.

McEwen and Merrill, along with senior Jalen Moore, combined to score 60 of the 81 points in the win. Norbert Janicek also had a nice night with 14 points.

Saturday night's contest is the second time USU has faced Air Force in the 2016-17 season. The Falcons beat USU 78-73 on Jan. 1, despite the Aggies hitting 13 3-pointers and shooting 46 percent from the field.

The second matchup between Air Force and USU should be a fun one for a few reasons. The Aggies have the potential to move up in MWC standings, it's the final home game of the season and it's the last time the Aggie faithful will get to see Moore and fellow seniors Shane Rector and Connor Garner play in the Spectrum.

"It's a huge game for us," Duryea said. "We have a lot to play for in terms of record, in terms of seeding and in terms of momentum. We've talked to our players for the last month after every game and we need to assess and make sure that we are getting better. That is our goal to be getting better. In those terms, we are not playing for a league championship, but our guys have a lot to play for, and our guys feel the same way."

Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs. He is a communication major at UVU and will graduate in the spring of 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias

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