LOGAN – Aggie guard Koby McEwen had a career night picking up 31 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals as Utah State held off a late New Mexico rally to win 89-80 Wednesday in the Spectrum.
Head coach Tim Duryea said he was proud of his starters, who each played at least 32 minutes. McEwen played all 40 minutes on his way to career highs in both points and rebounds.
“It was one of those games where you just feel good and the ball is going in,” McEwen said. “Its something I can’t explain.”
Duryea said that McEwen’s performance was “him being a player.”
“That’s him being focused defensively,” he said. “That’s him completing multiple efforts defensively and that’s him wanting to win.”
Sophomore guard Sam Merrill added another 18 points, while Quinn Taylor and Dwayne Brown each scored 15.
The Aggies had led by 12 points with three minutes to go in the game, but as McEwen held the ball with less than 60 seconds to go the Aggie lead was down to two. As the shot clock wound down McEwen drove to the hoop, drawing the defense with him. Instead of shooting he gave the ball to Taylor, who was able to score from under the hoop and draw a foul.
That sent Anthony Mathis, who had a team-high 25 points for New Mexico, to the bench with five fouls. Taylor missed the free throw, but grabbed the rebound.
“I think I took about two steps backward and saw the ball coming back to me,” he said. “…I was lucky.”
Taylor got the ball back to McEwen, who soon after scored points 30 and 31 from the free throw line, giving USU a six-point lead and all but securing the victory.
“We fought throughout the whole game and came out with a win,” McEwen said. “It was a well-executed game plan by us and I’m proud of the guys and the coaching staff.”
Utah State led for more than 90 percent of a game where each team had depleted rosters. The Aggies played eight players while just seven Lobos saw the floor.
“We gutted it out,” McEwen said. “We essentially had a six man rotation like they did. A lot of guys played a lot of minutes.”
Utah State had a lead from the beginning as McEwen scored the team’s first eight points, but New Mexico was able to keep pace and never trailed by more than 10 through the first half, and went into the break down 39-35. It was a similar story in the second half as USU built a 15-point lead but let New Mexico back within two, but never closer.
“I’m real proud of our starters,” Duryea said. “They were tired guys at the end of the game but determined to finish it out.”
The win put USU at 6-5 in conference and 13-11 overall. New Mexico fell to 6-4 in conference and 11-12 overall. USU will get a bye this weekend and play next Wednesday at Wyoming.