Sometimes, all you can do is tip your cap.
Sophomore guard Koby McEwen delivered an all-time performance on Wednesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, scoring 31 points on 10-15 shooting in a 89-80 victory over New Mexico. McEwen added 13 rebounds to notch his second career double-double, while also tallying six assists, and three steals in the game.
“Tonight was a really good win for us,” junior forward Quinn Taylor said. “It’s always good when you have a player who can score 30 and play the whole game. Koby (McEwen) played a crazy game. 31 points, 13 rebounds, it’s a career night. It’s always good when you have someone playing like that.”
Fellow sophomore guard Sam Merrill added 18 points with three rebounds and three assists. Junior forwards Dwayne Brown Jr. and Taylor each added another 15 points.
Anthony Mathis led the Lobos with 25 points before fouling out in the final minute. Chris McNeal added another 21 points for New Mexico.
USU came out of the gates strong, opening the game on an 8-2 run featuring McEwen scoring all eight points for the Aggies. The offense kept clicking in the first half, shooting over 50 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from behind the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes. Despite the impressive offensive showcase, USU led only 39-35 heading into intermission.
Starting the second half, the Aggies again came out in a solid groove, beginning the half on another 8-2 run. The Aggies continued to stretch the lead out over the following 10 minutes, building a 15-point lead on multiple occasions. New Mexico kept themselves in the game by shooting over 72 percent from deep during the half, using the deep ball to cut the deficit to three points with 1:03 remaining. McEwen again asserted himself, assisting on a Taylor layup and draining two FTs of his own to ice the game for the Aggies.
“We played good team basketball today,” McEwen said. “Gutted it out. Basically, we have a 6- or 7-man rotation… and a lot of guys played a lot of minutes. We fought throughout the whole game and came out with a win. It was a well-executed game plan and I’m proud of the guys.”
The constant throughout the entire game was McEwen, literally. The product of Toronto played all 40 minutes in the game, playing an integral part on either end of the floor.
“That’s him being a player. That’s being focused defensively. That’s him making multiple efforts defensively. That’s him just wanting to win and being an all-around player,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “He’s really doing a good job making plays for his teammates. He goes into every game as a playmaker.”
The win helped buoy USU in the midst of the turbulent Mountain West standings. A few short weeks ago, the Aggies stood as high as third in the conference before falling all the way to ninth. Now on a 3-game winning streak, Utah State finds themselves back into sixth place in the conference, and only a single game out of third place. Up next, USU faces a tough stretch with each of the next four games coming against the top four teams in the MW standings.
“We’re going to give them our best shot,” Taylor said. “We’re going to show them the team we are. I think we’re a really hard team to beat, especially here on our floor. It’s always good to stay in the fight, so we need to pick up some of these victories.”
First, though, is a much needed bye week for the Aggies. Despite playing well during the team’s 3-game winning streak, both players and coaches are excited for a well-deserved rest period.
“I need this break,” McEwen said. “It’s huge. We have to get guys back… A lot of recovery, a lot of icing, a lot stretching, a lot of heat… We have to take advantage of that and get our bodies back and be fresh for our next game.”
Utah State will next take the court on the road at Wyoming on Wednesday at 7 pm. The game will be the teams’ second meeting of the season, with Wyoming taking the first matchup 85-77 at the Spectrum on January 20th.