LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Utah State needs to finish strong to get an invite to the NCAA Tournament, and the Aggies are doing just that.
Utah State closed out the home portion of its schedule with a 72-59 victory over Wyoming on Thursday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum for its third straight victory.
A pair of Aggies recorded double-doubles during the game as Justin Bean led all scorers with 21 points, to go along with 10 rebounds, while Neemias Queta added 14 points and a game-best 13 rebounds. Queta also had five blocks, two assists and one steal in 31 minutes of work.
Queta and Bean have logged double-doubles in each of the last five and three games, respectively. Freshman guard Steven Ashworth added 13 points, three rebounds and three assists off the bench for Utah State (17-7, 14-4 Mountain West).
“Exciting night in the Spectrum,” said head coach Craig Smith. “It’s hard to believe this is our last night in the Spectrum. We had five weeks where we didn’t play at home, it’s crazy that it’s over right now. Happy to be able to go out on a good note.”
Hunter Maldonado led the way for the Cowboys (12-10, 6-9 MW) with 14 points and eight rebounds, Xavier DuSell chipped in 12 points and Hunter Thompson notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Wyoming’s leading scorer Marcus Williams (15.9 ppg) was held to just four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor behind a staunch defensive effort by guard Marco Anthony.
With Brock Miller sidelined due to injury – the junior guard had played in 92 consecutive games for the Aggies – Utah State struggled to find its rhythm from the outside in the early going. Utah State started out 0-for-10 from beyond the arc as the Cowboys baited USU shooters to attempt shots from long range and found itself trailing Wyoming 19-12 at the midway point of the first half.
However, the Aggies started chipping away and pared the deficit to 22-20 when Ashworth made the team’s first 3-pointer of the night at the 8:02 mark. Exactly one minute later, Ashworth tied it at 22-all on a jumper.
Maldonado tied it at 27-all with 4:30 to go, but Utah State closed the half on an 11-8 run to take a 38-35 lead at the break.
The Cowboys hung around for a while in the second half, and were only down 50-45 with 11:42 to go, when the Aggies used a 14-5 run to break it open. Utah State led by as many as 18 points in the second half.
The Aggies distributed the ball well on the night as seven of the eight players that checked into the game had at least two assists, including a game-high six dimes from freshman guard Rollie Worster. Utah State had 20 helpers on 30 made baskets.
USU shot 45.5 percent from the field (30-of-66), including 30.0 percent from 3-point range (6-of-20), and 60.0 percent from the charity stripe (6-of-10). The Aggies outrebounded the Cowboys 42-33 and outscored the visitors in the paint 38-22.
Wyoming shot 37.5 percent on the night (21-of-56), including 29.0 percent from beyond the arc (9-of-31), and 66.7 percent from the free throw line (8-of-12). The Aggies’ perimeter defense was much better in the second half as they limited the Cowboys to 1-of-14 shooting from 3-point range (7.1 percent).
Utah State returns to action on Saturday, March 6, when the Aggies close out the regular season against Fresno State at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.
“Happy to get the W,” Smith said. “We don’t have much time to enjoy this, we’ll enjoy it til midnight and hop on a plane tomorrow, get ready to play another opponent. That will be different, playing a different opponent two games in three days. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think our guys will be very focused. Fresno State has been playing excellent basketball, just beat Boise State the other day, beat UNLV last week as well. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”