The Utah State men’s basketball team celebrated “Spectrum Magic Night” with a commanding 103-73 win over San Jose State on Wednesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Junior Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 29 points, plus eight assists.
“Good win, take care of business at home,” head coach Craig Smith said. “What an electric atmosphere tonight. The Hurd was awesome, obviously in support of us. Just the energy and environment… but what a great home court tonight, and hopefully we can do it again on Saturday.”
Much like USU’s visit to San Jose, the Aggies start the game slow, never managing to build a lead larger than five points over the first 10 minutes of the game. Leading 19-16, however, the Utah State defense clamped down, holding SJSU to without a field goal for 8:16 to pave the way for a 20-5 run for the Aggies. USU headed into halftime with a 51-33 lead, closing the half with an 8-2 run capped off by a half-court buzzer-beater from Merrill.
“The (three) at the half got the lead from 15 to 18,” Merrill said of his half-court heave. “Fifteen feels like there’s still a chance for them, but 18 seems like we just need to make one push and we can blow it open. Fortunately, that went in.”
The second half was a continuation of Utah State’s dominance, as the Aggies came out of the locker rooms with a 10-3 run in the first two minutes of the half to stretch the lead to 25 points.
“We passed the ball really well,” Taylor said. “We had 28 assists on 35 made field goals. Anytime you can put up numbers like that and only eight turnovers, offensively, we were really flowing.”
The Spartans responded with an 8-2 run, ultimately trimming USU’s lead to 16 points, but were unable to close the gap any further. A 10-2 run from the Aggies pushed the lead back above 20, where it would remain for the remainder of the game.
“Thought we came out and did a great job offensively,” Merrill said. “Went on a couple good runs there towards the end of the first half that allowed us to get that separation… Crowd was great, so it was good to come out with a win.”
Freshman Brock Miller fought through a cold shooting night to finish with 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting. Senior Quinn Taylor flirted with a triple-double, ending up with eight points, eight rebounds, and nine assists. Freshmen Neemias Queta and Tauriawn Knight each pitched in with 11 points apiece. Queta also led USU with 11 rebounds. A total of 11 players received playing time for USU, with all 11 players recording at least one field goal and rebound.
“That’s what we’re about. We understand that there’s not one guy on this team that’s going to be able to take us where we want to go,” Merrill said. “Where we want to go, which is the top of our league and into the NCAA tournament, we’re going to have to do it together… We have probably five or six guys lead us in scoring throughout the year, and I think that’s a good sign for our team.”
The win keeps Utah State in a tie for second place in the Mountain West standings with Fresno State. Currently, the Aggies are also 1.5 games ahead of sixth place in the conference. The top five teams in the MW receive a first round bye in the conference tournament.
“We’re excited for every game,” Taylor said. “In this conference, it’s going to be a tight race, and we know it’s going to come down to every last game. It’s always great playing for these fans and students. That’s what we all want. We want to have that atmosphere every night.”
The Aggies return to the hardwood on Saturday when they face UNLV at the Spectrum. Tipoff is currently scheduled for 2:30 pm MST.