LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Neemias Queta made his long-awaited season debut for the Utah State basketball team, but it was All-American Sam Merrill who saved the day.
Merrill had 24 points and eight rebounds, and Abel Porter scored seven of his 13 points in overtime as No. 25 Utah State beat Fresno State 77-70 on Saturday night.
“What a game,” said head coach Craig Smith. “We kind of had a little bit of everything. I thought Fresno State played a really good game, did a lot of different things to us. We found a way to win.”
Justin Bean added 14 points, while Queta chipped in six points in 10 minutes, in his first action of the season for Utah State after recovering from an injury.
The Aggies improved to 9-1 overall, 2-0 Mountain West.
“Ton of credit to Fresno State,” Merrill said. “We’ve been seeing a lot of that lately, teams playing well, making a ton of shots. We went through a long stretch where we could not score. We only had 10 turnovers in 45 minutes, so that’s really good, we just could not make a shot.”
New Williams scored 26 points and hit the basket that forced overtime for Fresno State (2-6, 0-2).
The Aggies turned it on in overtime, outscoring Fresno State 16-9. Utah State allowed just two field goals in overtime.
A wild final two minutes of regulation set up overtime.
After Nate Grimes hit a layup that cut the Aggies’ lead to one point, Diogo Brito hit a 3-pointer to give Utah State a four-point lead with 1:43 left in regulation.
On the next possession, Williams hit a 3-pointer for the Bulldogs to keep Fresno State in the game. After a traveling call on Utah State gave Fresno State the ball with 19 seconds left, Bean stole the inbound pass. Brito was fouled and made a pair of free throws to put Utah State up by three points and set up a final possession for the Bulldogs.
Williams banked in a last-second 3-pointer from well-beyond the arc, with the shot rattling around the rim before dropping through the net and sending the game into overtime.
After Merrill made a layup to give Utah State a 33-32 lead with 16 minutes left in the second half, Fresno State went on a 9-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 41-33 advantage. Williams scored all nine points in the run. The Aggies’ scoring drought lasted nearly five minutes before Brito ended it with a three-point play. Robinson scored on a jumper, but Utah State countered with a 6-0 run to get back into the game with eight minutes remaining.
It was seesaw matchup in the first half, with neither team shooting well. Utah State shot just 26.7% from the field in the first period, with Fresno State shooting 31.3%. The teams struggled with their long distance shooting as the Aggies went 1 of 10 and the Bulldogs 3 of 16.
Utah State led 27-24 at halftime.
The Aggies will next host Saint Katherine Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.