LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The losing streak is over.
The Utah State basketball team never trailed, and went on to beat Nevada at home Saturday night, 80-70, snapping a 3-game losing skid, its longest losing streak in two years.
“Good win for the Aggies,” said head coach Craig Smith. “It feels good to get back on track, I thought we had a great team effort. We played very connected on offense and defense.”
Neemias Queta led the Aggies in scoring with a season-high 19 points, on 8-of-12 shooting, and added seven rebounds and one assist. Sam Merrill flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 12 points and game highs of eight rebounds and eight assists.
Diogo Brito matched Merrill’s scoring numbers, wrapping up the game with 12 points and adding six rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist. Brock Miller and Abel Porter rounded out the Aggies in double figures, finishing with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“It was a tough week for us the last 10 days or so,” said Merrill. “We really took what happened on Tuesday night personally. It’s understood that that can’t be who we are. We had two really good days of practice. We had a really good night defensively, that had to be the key. They scored quite a few points there at the end, but I thought we had a good night on the defensive end.”
USU (14-5, 3-3 MW) returned to form on the glass, outrebounding Nevada 43-28, and scored 36 points in the paint, compared to 22 by the Wolf Pack. The Aggie bench also came out of a funk, outscoring Nevada’s reserves 25-15. Sean Bairstow finished with eight points, three assists and two rebounds.
Nevada (10-7, 3-2) was led by Jalen Harris with a game-high 31 points. He was followed by Jazz Johnson with 18 as the Wolf Pack finished the game shooting 39.0 percent (23-of-59) from the floor, including 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from behind the 3-point line.
Utah State used a pair of threes out of the gate from Miller and sophomore forward Justin Bean to take a 6-0 lead and never looked back. The USU lead grew to as much as 16 points in the opening half before the Wolf Pack answered with a 10-0 run over a two-minute span to whittle the difference back to six, 24-18, with just over five minutes until the half. The Aggies ultimately went into intermission with a nine-point lead, 32-23, as a final triple by Merrill missed the mark as the horn sounded.
“What a great team win,” Smith said. “I thought our guys made a lot of winning plays. We never refer to those things as little things, they are winning plays. You go right down the lineup of guys that did that.”
USU finished the game shooting a blazing 65.0 percent (13-of-20) from the floor over the final 20 minutes, while also converting at the charity stripe, shooting 81.8 percent (18-of-22) at the free throw line in the second half. A Queta layup at the beginning of the second stanza gave the Aggies an 11-point lead and the double-digit margin held throughout the rest of the game.
Utah State will now have a week off before returning to the court at Boise State on Saturday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m.