by Ashley Springer, Utah State Athletic Media Relations
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Freshmen guards Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill combined for 45 points as the Utah State men's basketball team (12-15, 6-10 Mountain West) beat San José State (14-12, 7-8 Mountain West) 81-75 Wednesday night at The Event Center. The win marks the first USU conference road win this season.
Merrill scored a career-high 22 points and led the Aggies with six rebounds, five assists and a career-high-tying three steals. McEwen led the Aggies with 23 points and five assists and also had three boards and a steal. Senior wing Jalen Moore had 15 points, six rebounds and two assists. Sophomore forward Norbert Janicek had 14 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.
McEwen and Merrill each had 14 points in the first half, with a combined shooting of 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the floor.
The Aggies never trailed in the win and after a 2-2 tie with 18:24 left in the first, USU led the rest of the game. Utah State opened on a 12-2 start with 16:38 to play. McEwen scored the first five points and Janicek and Merrill combined for the other seven. The Spartans responded with a couple of threes to cut the Aggies' lead to 12-8 with 15:45 remaining in the half. Merrill ended San José State's run with a trey of his own to put Utah State up 15-8 with 14:12 left in the first.
After a period of back-and-forth scoring, USU went on an 8-0 run off of three Merrill layups and a Moore jumper for the team's largest lead in the half of 12, 31-19, with 7:43 to go. SJSU was able to cut the Aggies' lead to seven twice in the final five minutes, but the Aggies went into the break leading 43-35. The Aggies shot 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field during the half.
Utah State opened the second half with an 8-2 run off of a pair of Merrill jumpers, a Moore dunk and a Janicek jumper to lead 51-37 with 16:48 left to play. The Spartans cut the lead to nine twice, but back-to-back treys from sophomore forward Quinn Taylor and McEwen gave the Aggies their largest lead of the night of 15, 59-44, lead with 13:20 to play. SJSU proceeded on a 14-4 run to cut USU's lead to five, 63-58, with 8:16 remaining.
A couple of jumpers from Moore and Merrill and a pair of Janicek layups put the Aggies back up by 10, 71-61, with 3:50 left to play. San José State was able to trim the lead back down to five three more times in the final 2:07 remaining in the game, shortening Utah State's lead to 75-70 with 49 seconds to play. With the combined free throws from senior guard Shane Rector, McEwen and Merrill in the final minute, the Aggies were able to seal the 81-75 victory.
The Spartans were led by sophomore forward Ryan Welage with 20 points and two rebounds. Sophomore guard Jaycee Hillsman had 13 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Sophomore forward Brandon Clarke had 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Freshman guard Isaiah Nichols had 11 points, one assist and one steal.
Utah State finished the game shooting 54.9 percent (28-of-51), including 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from behind the arc, while shooting 95 percent (19-of-20) from the free throw line. San José State shot 45.9 percent (28-of-61) from the floor, 57.1 percent (12-of-21) from behind the 3-point line and 70 percent (7-of-10) from the free throw line.
USU will next face Air Force (11-17, 4-11 Mountain West) on Saturday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The game will be broadcast on ROOT Sports and tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (MT).
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 @USUBasketball. 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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