Great Osobor dominates as No. 17 Utah State beats San Jose State

Utah State forward Great Osobor shoots the ball as San Jose State guard Alvaro Cardenas (13) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024, in Logan, Utah.

A scoring correction during halftime cost Great Osobor his fourth 3-pointer of the season, and the way the Utah State’s star forward played in the second half, you would have thought he was mad about it.

But he wasn’t.

Although the junior from England scored 19 of his 31 points in the second half to help propel the 17th-ranked Aggies to an 82-61 win over San Jose State Tuesday night, he was actually aware it wasn’t supposed to be a career-high-equaling 32 points.

“One of our managers told us about the change at halftime,” Osobor said with a grin before admitting: “I knew it wasn’t a 3, but I thought maybe I could get away with it.”

The first-place Aggies (19-2 overall, 7-1 in the Mountain West) were in the middle of an 11-2 run late in the first half when Osobor fired up a shot from the perimeter as the shot clock wound down, letting loose with his shot just before hitting the floor.

“I saw that we had five seconds left on the shot clock, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s my time to be a guard,’” Osobor explained. “I was going to shoot the 3, but then (the defender) jumped early, to his credit, and I tried to get the foul. But they didn’t call it.”

Although Utah State went from a 38-30 lead at intermission to a seven-point advantage before they even got back on the court, the scoring change didn’t end up mattering much as Osobor went to work early in the second half.

Utah State’s leading scorer at 18.5 points per game coming into Tuesday’s contest, Osobor scored two quick baskets down low, opening things up for teammates Ian Martinez and Isaac Johnson to knock down a couple of 3-pointers. After that, the Aggies rode Osobor even harder, putting together a game-changing 12-0 run primarily powered by Osobor getting fouled and then knocking down free throws.

“I was pretty confident that if they got me ball that I would reward them, so I told them that at halftime,” Osobor noted.

Osobor ended up being fouled 12 times by the Spartans (8-13, 1-7), going to the free-throw line 19 times and knocking down 13 of those attempts. Only two other Aggies ended up taking free throws on Tuesday, with the first non-Osobor attempt coming about 37 minutes into the game.

“He draws fouls, that’s what he does,” USU head coach Danny Sprinkle said of Osobor, whom he brought with him from Montana State when he took over in Logan. “A lot of it is, sometimes his game is awkward. He’s 6-foot-8, 260 (pounds), and he just moves a little bit different than most 6-8, 260 guys.”

San Jose State head coach Tim Miles was certainly impressed — and frustrated — by his first in-person look at Osobor.

“Osobor is the main problem,” Miles proclaimed. “He does such a good job running the floor. He’s so crafty, he’s long, he’s got big hands, he’s able to finish, and he makes enough free throws. All night, Utah State drew 16 fouls. He drew 12. That’s just unheard of. We are not a great interior defense and people know that, but he’s a special player.”

Osobor, who did commit six turnovers, was aided offensively by senior guards Ian Martinez (16 points, while going 6 for 6 with four 3-pointers) and Darius Brown II (11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists).

Brown’s season-high in rebounds primarily came courtesy of a woeful shooting performance by the Spartans, who finished 5-for-23 from 3-point range. Martinez also pulled down six boards, while freshman guard Mason Falslev tallied eight, helping USU win the battle of the boards by a 39-to-25 margin.

“San Jose State is an elite 3-point shooting team, and so we really wanted to guard the 3-point line,” Sprinkle said. “We had a couple of breakdowns where they got looks they normally make, but we knew there’d be a lot of long rebounds and so we talked about our guards being able to get in there and rebound and it showed.”

The Spartans, who made two of their five 3-pointers in the first three minutes, shot just 39.3% from the floor overall on their way to a fourth straight loss. Myron Amey Jr. led San Jose State with 14 points, but the junior guard knocked down only one of his seven 3-point attempts.

The Aggies ended up shooting an even 60% for the game, and finished 6 of 12 from 3-point range on their way to a third straight victory heading into Saturday’s showdown at San Diego State. The Aztecs (16-4, 5-2) suffered a 79-71 loss at Colorado State (15-5, 3-4).

Tuesday’s win was the 100th victory in Sprinkle’s brief career as a head coach. The Montana native won 81 games in four years at Montana State before coming to Utah State.

“I had no idea about that until about a week ago when Anthony Lorenzo, our ops guy, said that I had something like 97,” Sprinkle said. “I was like, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t think about that stuff.’

“But it is a great milestone, and it comes down to having great players and coaches, not only here but at Montana State. I haven’t scored one point, got one assist or had one assist in those 100 wins. There’s so much that goes into winning games at the Division I level, and if you don’t have great players and a great staff, you’re not winning games.”