By Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations
Merrill combined with Koby McEwen, who also started in the backcourt against New Mexico, for 31 points as the two freshmen guards helped Utah State earn its first Mountain West victory of the season, 79-75, over the Lobos on a snowy Wednesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
McEwen has scored in double figures in six straight games - the longest streak by a true freshman since Jaycee Carroll.
McEwen finished with 18 points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field and 12-of-16 from the free-throw line. He also had five rebounds and three assists.
After coming off the bench in Utah State's first 12 games of the season, Merrill made his first career start against the Lobos (9-6, 2-1) and scored 13 points, to go along with a career-high eight assists, three steals and zero turnovers in 36 minutes of action. In his last two games alone, the native of Bountiful, Utah, has combined for 22 points, 15 turnovers and zero turnovers.
New Mexico's Tim Williams led all scorers in the game with 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. Elijah Brown chipped in 17 points for the Lobos, who came into the game fresh off a 68-62 victory at San Diego State.
The game featured eight ties and 15 lead changes and it was McEwen who broke the final tie with a 3-pointer from the right wing, giving the hosts a 60-57 lead with 8:20 to go. Merrill had the assist on the play.
The Aggies eventually pushed their lead out to as many as 10 points before settling for the four-point win.
Utah State shot 25-of-53 from the field (47.2 percent), including 10-of-22 from beyond the arc (45.5 percent), and 19-of-28 from the charity stripe. The Aggies had 19 assists on 25 baskets and outrebounded the Lobos 31-29.
New Mexico shot 28-of-53 from the floor (52.8 percent), but just 4-of-12 from 3-point range (33.3 percent). The Lobos were also 15-of-20 from the free throw line (75.0 percent).
The Lobos led by as many as five in the first half and were up 38-37 at the break. Williams scored 20 of his points in the first half alone.
Utah State returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 7, when the Aggies welcome UNLV (8-8, 1-2) to the Spectrum. Tip-off is slated for 4 p.m. and will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.
For Aggie basketball ticket information, fans can contact the USU Athletics Ticket Office over the phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or 435-797-0305 during regular hours of operation. Fans can also buy their tickets in person at the USU Ticket Office inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or online by clicking on the "Buy Tickets" tab at www.UtahStateAggies.com.
Utah State men's basketball news and information is available on Facebook facebook.com/USUmen'sbasketball and on Twitter @Aggiehoops. Fans can also get USU men's basketball highlights on YouTube at youtube.com/UtahStateAthletics. Aggie fans can follow the Utah State athletic program at Twitter @USUAthletics, on Facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics, or on Instagram @USUAthletics.
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