The Utah State University men’s basketball team defeated the UNLV Rebels 79-63 in the Spectrum Saturday afternoon after averaging a nearly perfect 3-point percentage in the second half.
The Aggies were 7-of-8 from the three in the in the second half compared to UNLV’s 0-of-7. Over the course of the game, freshman guard Koby McEwen knocked down 5-of-7 from the 3-point line.
“The more 3-point shooters you can put on the floor these days, the harder you are to guard,” said Aggie head coach Tim Duryea.
The crucial second half 3-point stint started with a clutch shot from McEwen with 7:26 left in the second period to put the Aggies up 60-52. Over the next minute and a half McEwen sunk two more 3-pointers, boosting the Aggies to an even larger lead of 66-55.
That’s when the crowd became explosive — McEwen couldn’t miss. And his energy seemed to spread to his teammates too.
Over the next three minutes senior guard Shane Rector, junior guard Julion Pearre and sophomore Quinn Taylor all nailed 3-point shots to put the Aggies up 79-59.
“We got Koby and we’re off to the races,” Duryea said.
“When you get in that mode you try not to force things and just go with the flow,” McEwen said. “I guess I just gave them the confidence to knock down shots.”
Freshman guard Koby McEwen walked off the court at the end of the second half with a team-high of 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists like a small town hero, aloof to the standing ovations and blaring cheers of Aggie fans.
“What do you say? The kid is special — he can do it all, shoot, drive and from the 3-point line,” said junior guard Julion Pearre of his teammate.
Despite praise from his fellow teammates and fans, McEwen said he unhappy with his first half performance where he was 1-3 from the floor and 1-3 from the free throw line for a total of three points. Duryea said McEwen was the most disappointed in the locker room at halftime despite the Aggie’s 37-31 lead.
“I tend to attack the basket more in the first half than in the second,” McEwen said. “I’ve been trying to work on it.”
Freshman guard Sam Merrill also had an out-of-his-mind performance, leading the Aggies with 12 points before the halftime buzzer. Merrill was second behind McEwen in scoring, finishing the game with 14 points after fouling out late in the second half. He also had five rebounds and four assists.
“Sam was really good in the first half,” Duryea said, pleased with his decision to place Merrill into the starting lineup instead of Rector.
The McEwen/Merrill duo magic is just getting started. The Aggies are now 8-7 overall and 2-2 in conference before traveling to Laramie to take on the University of Wyoming Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on Root Sports.