LOGAN – After a pair of disappointing losses Utah State was able to pick itself back up during its regular season finale in the Spectrum Saturday night. The Aggies beat UNLV 79-67 to lock up the No. 7 seed in next week’s conference tournament.
“Overall team win,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “Everybody that played scored. I thought we had a lot of contributions from the supporting cast which, for this team, is a huge key.”
Koby McEwen led USU with 18 points while Sam Merrill added 15. In his last home game as an Aggie, senior Alex Dargenton recorded 12 points and a career-high five assists. USU tied its season high for assists with 23.
UNLV’s Brandon McCoy led the Rebels with 18 points. Dargenton said matching up against the 7-foot freshman was tough, but that his own experience was an advantage.
“On defense its hard to rebound against a guy who has a couple inches on you,” Dargenton said. “On offense I think I’m a little quicker and I can get around him and make plays and get guys open or score myself.”
The teams had swapped leads five times through the first 15 minutes of the game when a pair of Dargenton free throws put USU up 23-22. McEwen and Julion Pearre were able to stretch the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers soon after. Daron Henson added a buzzer-beating trey to close the first half on a 13-4 run and take a 42-30 lead into the break.
A Dargenton layup extended the lead to 14 in the opening seconds of the first half, but UNLV outscored the Aggies 16-4 over the next five minutes to cut USU’s lead to 48-46. The Aggies regrouped with a timeout, then broke out of the slump when junior DeAngelo Isby drove along the baseline to score on a reverse layup. Then, the next next time down the court, Dwayne Brown Jr. added three points from the right corner.
“That’s what we didn’t do (in last week’s loss) at Air Force,” Duryea said of his team’s response to UNLV’s run. “…We got a timeout, we grabbed a hold of it and got a couple key baskets and came back and got some stops, turned the game the other way.”
Utah State continued to build on its lead until it peaked at 19 with six minutes remaining. UNLV scored the next eight points but were never able to cut USU’s advantage to single digits.
There was some bad news for USU in the win. McEwen left the game temporarily with an injury. He was able to finish the game, but his status afterward was unknown.
“I don’t know for sure where that stands so that’s a little worrisome,” Duryea said.
Dargenton and Pearre were the two seniors who played their last game in the Spectrum.
“I thought that both of them really did a good job,” Duryea said. “Julion hit two big threes for us and Alex was active.”
The win put USU at 15-16 overall and 8-10 in league play. The loss was UNLV’s fifth-straight as the Rebels fell to 19-12 overall and an 8-10 in conference. Utah State will open the Mountain West tournament against Colorado State at 2:30 p.m. MT Wednesday.
“It’s a new season,” Pearre said. “We’ve let some of them slip away but we know that going into this tournament we can hang with anyone in the conference.”