The Utah State University men’s basketball team ended a three-game losing skid and earned its first Mountain West Conference victory Wednesday night with a 79-75 victory over the University of New Mexico.
After starting conference play 0-2, the Aggies were able to right their course against the team currently sitting in second place in conference standings.
“It feels good to get a win,” said freshman guard Sam Merrill. “That’s a good New Mexico team, but we showed a lot of grit.”
Merrill, who led the Aggies passing game with a team-high eight assists, made the most of his first career start. The recently-returned missionary provided a spark for the team, going off for 13 points and a three steals.
“Honestly, it’s not a big deal to me,” Merrill said of his starting lineup debut. “I’m just grateful that the coaches feel that I can make a difference.”
Three-point shooting was the theme of the first half for the Aggies, hitting seven shots from beyond the arc. Three-point baskets accounted for 15 of the Aggies’ first 22 points. Though their long-range shooting cooled a little bit in the second half, USU finished the game at 45 percent on 10-22 shooting.
“I want to take as many good, open 3-pointers as we can get,” said Aggie head coach Tim Duryea. “We try to put players on the floor and space the floor so that those things are available. The more 3-pointers that you can make in college basketball, the better offense you are.”
The Lobos came into the contest out-rebounding their opponents by an average of five rebounds per game, but that didn’t intimidate the Aggies. Led by senior wing Jalen Moore and sophomore wing Alexis Dargenton, who both had seven rebounds apiece, USU won the battle of the boards 31-29.
“We outrebounded them I think, and they’re a good rebounding team, so that’s huge for us,” Moore said. “I feel like we had guys that wanted to win.”
Lobo forward Tim Williams scored a game-high 30 points on 13-18 shooting, coming just one point away from tying his career-high. Williams also led New Mexico’s rebounding efforts with seven boards.
With this win, USU improved to 7-7 on the season, and 1-2 in Mountain West play.
The Aggies will be back in action Saturday afternoon to take on the UNLV Rebels (8-8, 1-2) in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at 4 p.m.