LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah State basketball team is playing its best basketball at just the right time.
The Aggies extended their winning streak to five games, cruising past last-place Wyoming Wednesday night at the Spectrum, 78-58.
Sam Merrill scored 26 points, the fourth time in the last five games in which the senior from Bountiful has gone over the 20-point mark, while Justin Bean recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds, as Utah State improved to 22-7 overall, 11-5 in the Mountain West Conference.
“We got off to a good start, had a bad stretch in the middle, then ended the first half in a very good fashion,” said head coach Craig Smith. “We had a great start to the second half, as well. Then we kind of played a little tentatively with six turnovers in a short amount of time. They cut it to 10, then we were able to answer the bell.”
Smith improved to 50-14 as Utah State’s head coach, becoming the fastest to reach the 50-win mark in school history.
Merrill made 9 of 13 shots from the field, while Bean made 8 of 13, as Utah State shot 50 percent from the field as a team. The Aggies dominated the glass, outrebounding the Cowboys, 42-25. The also outscored Wyoming in the paint, 40-24.
“It was a battle, for sure,” Bean said. “They hung in there. In the first half especially, we didn’t do a great job of handling the ball or their pressure. We made some decisions that were pretty uncharacteristic for us. Coach told us at one of the media timeouts that we needed to play better, be smarter and trust each other more, and I thought we did that. We had a lot of good passes that led to great open looks.”
Neemias Queta added 8 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks, while Abel Porter had 10 points.
Utah State found itself up only by three with 4:09 left in the first half, but closed on a 14-2 run to open up a 42-27 lead at intermission. The closest Wyoming got the rest of the way was 10.
“The crowd was great, we love having their support,” Porter said. “(Justin) Bean and Neemi were beasts on the boards tonight, and that was great for us. Sam (Merrill) had an all-around great game. Wyoming kind of makes things messy when you play, and that happened again tonight.”
Alphonso Anderson and Diogo Brito each scored seven points off the bench as the Aggies stay in second place in the Mountain West Conference behind San Diego State.
Utah State is now off until February 25th when they host San Jose State on Senior Night at The Spectrum at 9:00 p.m.