LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah State’s men’s basketball team officially closed the 2022 calendar year in fine fashion, defeating Fresno State 67-54 in a New Year’s Eve matinee Saturday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Steven Ashworth and Zee Hamoda each scored 13 points off the bench to help the Aggies (12-2, 1-0 Mountain West) open conference play with a victory.
“Good win for us,” said USU head coach Ryan Odom. “Really pleased for our guys. Conference play is tough. It’s hard-fought every night out. Fresno State is dynamite on defense and they have some really good scorers. Certainly, (Isaih) Moore can get behind the defense and get some easy baskets and finishes in there. (Jemarl) Baker is just a tremendous player. (Iaiah) Hill makes them go. The others fill in their roles and play well together. I thought they did a great job of making it difficult on us.”
Utah State’s 67 points proved to be a season low and it marked the first time the Aggies had won a game under second-year head coach Ryan Odom when scoring fewer than 70.
Jemarl Baker Jr. scored a game-high 20 points for the Bulldogs (5-8, 1-1 MW) who have lost 10 of the last 12 games they have played against Utah State. Leo Colimerio chipped in 10 points for Fresno State, which fell to 9-25 overall against the Aggies in games played in Logan.
Behind the play of Ashworth and Hamoda, Utah State’s bench outscored Fresno State’s reserves 39-6. Dan Akin chipped in 11 points and grabbed a game-best 13 rebounds off the bench for the Aggies.
“I think that was obviously some people were anxious for the first game in conference,” Akin said.” But we knew it was going to be a low-scoring game so we were ready for that.”
“As a team, we come, all of us, into the first game of the year in conference,” Hamoda said. “We come with the mentality that everyone’s coming ready. It doesn’t matter who is playing more or who’s on the bench. Coming into the game, I was just focused on trying to affect the game for our team.”
Hamoda certainly made his presence felt whenever he was in the game. With Utah State trailing 18-17 midway through the first half, the 6-foot-7, 170-pound native of Riffa, Bahrain, knocked down one of his three 3-pointers on the day to put the hosts in front.
The Aggies again found themselves trailing when Hamoda dialed another one up from long distance, giving Utah State a 23-22 lead with 6:50 to go in the first half. That basket ignited a 13-0 run for the hosts, who led 33-26 at the break.
Hamoda gave the Aggies the lead for good at 47-46 with 9:52 remaining in the game when he drilled his third and final 3-pointer, sparking a 12-0 run in the process.
Perhaps one of Hamoda’s biggest moments of the afternoon came when he grabbed an offensive rebound following a missed free throw by Akin. The ball eventually found Ashworth, who knocked down a 3-pointer to give Utah State a 59-48 lead with 3:54 to go.
Utah State shot 43.5 percent from the field (20-of-46), including 36.8 percent from beyond the arc (7-of-19), and 74.1 percent from the free throw line (20-of-27). The Aggies had 11 assists on their 20 made field goals and outrebounded the Bulldogs 37-23.
Defensively, Utah State limited Fresno State to just 37.3 percent shooting from the field (19-of-51), including only 20.0 percent from 3-point range (4-of-20). However, the Bulldogs did make 12 of the 13 foul shots they took (92.3 percent).
The Aggies open a two-game road trip on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m., when they square off against Air Force at Clune Arena.