Catch. Launch. Swish. Repeat.
Time-after-time, Brock Miller unloaded from deep and time-after-time, Miller made Mississippi Valley State pay.
The freshman guard scored a career-high 26 points for Utah State Tuesday evening, leading the Aggies to a 94-59 win over the visiting Delta Devils in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. With the win, Utah State is 3-0 on the young season. It’s the fifth time in the last six years that the Aggies have opened their season with three consecutive wins.
“We talked about that with our team, quite frankly,” USU first-year head coach Craig Smith said. “Our biggest winning streak last year was three games. We took care of business to get that winning streak.”
It took a minute for the Aggies (3-0) to get going against the Delta Devils (0-3). Utah State led 16-10 with 13:30 left in the first half when Tauriawn Knight came off the bench. Knight sunk a jumper and then made a pair of free throws and the Aggies took. Utah State went on a 26-3 run over the next eight minutes. Miller and Sam Merrill, who scored 18 points on the night, each had seven points during the scoring run.
The hot streak was sparked by the Aggies on the defensive end, as stops turned into baskets and baskets turned into a bigger and bigger lead.
“We had to match the intensity of the game,” USU guard John Knight III said. “We all started playing our game and got the big lead. We kept our foot on the pedal the whole game.”
USU took a 53-24 lead into halftime. Smith turned to his squad’s depth early on; all 12 Aggies on the active roster saw the floor in the first seven minutes of the contest. All 12 ended up scoring, and 11 of 12 played at least 10 minutes.
Miller asserted himself in the second half. He went off for four 3-pointers, including one stretch where he buried three in just over two minutes. All-in-all, Miller was a very efficient 6 of 11 from downtown and 7 of 12 from the floor. He also was perfect at the charity stripe, with six free throws. Miller’s career night came in 24 minutes of playing time.
“It’s not too hard to get going like that when you’ve got teammates that are giving you really good looks,” Miller said. “They were drawing and kicking to (me) and giving those really good gaps and setting good screens.”
Through three-straight games the Aggies have had three different leading scorers, all of whom had at least 20 points. Sam Merrill went off for a career-high 37 in the season opener at Montana State. Dwayne Brown Jr. tied his career-high with 24 at home against Hartford, and it was Miller’s turn against the Delta Devils.
The Aggies defended at a high level, holding Mississippi Valley State to 31.1% from the field. They made the Delta Devils earn their points. Utah State gave up only four free throws in the second half and many of the visiting team’s points came on contested 3-pointers.
“What’s been most exciting is that our guys have committed to the defensive end,” Smith said. “Scoring is great, it’s fun, the fans love it, but if you’re going to win and win big you’re going to have to defend.”
Jordan Evans played well for Mississippi Valley State. The senior point guard scored a game-high 29 points and went 8 of 11 from downtown.
USU’s ball movement was superb. In addition to Miller’s open looks that often came on the end of back-to-back swing passes, the Aggies shared the ball well in general. Utah State had 24 assists on 29 field goals.
“We were really sharing the ball,”
The 5,133 fans in attendance were also treated to a display of freakish athleticism from a trio of Utah State freshmen. Neemias Queta, Knight and John Knight III all brought the crowd to its collective feet with emphatic blocks. Knight III also hammered down a breakaway dunk off of a pretty outlet pass by Abel Porter Jr midway through the second half.
The Aggies will face their first real test at home on Friday evening when they host Utah Valley University. The Wolverines fell to BYU and Saint Mary’s in their last two games.
“We have so much room to grow, and we’re going to have to grow on Friday night,” Smith said. “That will be the best team that we’ve played up to this point.”