Utah State gets defensive in 77-61 victory over Colorado State

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Sam Merrill scores 28 points, while Aggies hold Rams to 37 percent shooting

Utah State center Neemias Queta (23) blocks a shot by Colorado State forward David Roddy (21) as Utah State forward Justin Bean (34) helps defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/Herald Journal via AP)

LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Alphonso Anderson had one of Utah State’s five blocks against Colorado State, but it came at a pivotal time during the Aggies’ 77-61 victory in front of 9,791 fans Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

With the score knotted at 52-apiece following a pair of free throws by Anderson, the Aggies had the ball back and were looking to take the lead, but the Rams’ Kris Martin stole the ball and raced toward the other end of the court. Anderson didn’t give up on the play and raced back to the other end of the court to block the shot.

Following the block, the Aggies proceeded to score the next 11 points of the game and never looked back. In fact, Utah State (16-6, 5-4 Mountain West) ended the contest on a 27-9 run. The Rams (14-8, 5-4 MW) went scoreless from the field for six minutes, 34 seconds after taking a 52-50 lead on a 3-pointer by Kris Martin with 12:09 left in the second half.

In fact, Colorado State went nearly eight minutes between field goals during the game-changing surge by Utah State.

“It’s a great win for the Aggies,” head coach Craig Smith said. “It’s the second-hottest team in the league, with San Diego State being the hottest, but these guys had won five in a row and seven out of eight since their double-overtime win at Tulsa. They’re a good team.”

Sam Merrill scored in double figures for the 13th-straight game as the Utah State senior guard poured in a game-high 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. Justin Bean was one rebound shy of recording his 13th double-double of the season as he had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Neemias Queta also scored in double figures for the Aggies with 10 points, to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Anderson scored eight off the bench.

“Colorado State is a really good team, they do a lot of things really well,” Merrill said. “They score the ball really well, so to hold them to the percentages that we did is an awesome night defensively. Our mindset was right. In the second half we got things going offensively and shot 68 percent in the second half, which is pretty crazy. Overall, a good night.”

Nico Carvacho and Adam Thistlewood had 14 points apiece to lead the Rams, while David Roddy chipped in 10.

Early on, it appeared as if the Aggies were going to run away with it as they led by 14 with 8:22 remaining in the first half. However, the Rams closed the half on a 17-6 run to pare the deficit to 31-28 at the break.

Colorado State opened its largest lead of the night at 49-46 with 13:28 to go after Carvacho converted a layup. Utah State senior guard Diogo Brito answered at the other end with a 3-ball just 21 seconds later.

Abel Porter went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to give the Aggies a 50-49 lead before Martin drilled his 3-pointer to put CSU in front for the final time of the night.

Utah State shot a season-high 59.2 percent from the field (29-of-49), including 43.8 percent from 3-point range (7-of-16), and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe (12-of-16). The Aggies had 20 assists on their 29 made field goals, marking the seventh time this season USU has had at least 20 helpers in a game.

The Aggies held the Rams to 37.3 percent shooting from the field (22-of-59) and 29.2 percent shooting from 3-point range (7-of-24). Colorado State was 76.9 percent from the free throw line (10-of-13).

Utah State returns to action on Tuesday, Jan. 28, when the Aggies travel to Laramie, Wyo., to face Wyoming at 9:00 p.m.

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