by Ashley Springer, USU Athletic Media Relations
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Utah State men's basketball remained undefeated in the first round of the Mountain West Championship with a 76-65 victory over Colorado State on Wednesday. The win moved the Aggies to 4-0 in the first round of the Mountain West Championship games and also snapped a three-game losing streak as the No. 7 seed in postseason tournament play.
Utah State was led by sophomore guard Koby McEwen with 25 points to go along with six rebounds, four assists and a steal. Junior forward Dwayne Brown Jr. recorded 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block. Senior guard Julion Pearre had a season-high 14 points, including 12 from 3-point land in the first half alone, along with four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Sophomore guard Sam Merrill rounded out the double-digit scoring for the Aggies with 11 points, while collecting four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Things started off slowly for the Aggies as Colorado State took a 20-5 lead with 11:22 to play in the first. However, a 7-0 run fueled by Brown free throws, a dunk from junior forward Quinn Taylor and Brown 3-pointer, cut the lead to single digits, 20-12, with 8:09 to go. A CSU three put the Rams back up 11, 27-16, with 5:57 on the clock. However, USU responded with a 10-0 run after a Pearre three, a four-point play from McEwen and another Pearre triple to make it a one-point game, 28-27, with 4:22 remaining. Pearre drained his fourth three of the half to tie the game up at 33-33 with 1:10 to go, but Colorado State hit a pair of free throws to take the 35-33 lead heading into the break.
The teams went back-and-forth to start off the second half before jumpers from Brown and Merrill capped a 6-0 Utah State run to give the Aggies a 47-44 advantage, with 14:13 to play. The Aggies continued to lengthen the margin, leading by seven, 62-55, after a bucket from Brown with 8:45 on the clock. Colorado State began to chip away, trading baskets with the Aggies to pull to within three, 68-65, with 4:28 to play. However, Utah State held Colorado State scoreless for the rest of the game and used an 8-0 run made up of a Merrill layup, tip-in from senior forward Alex Dargenton and free throws from McEwen and Pearre for the 76-65 victory.
Colorado State redshirt sophomore guard Anthony Bonner had 15 points, junior guard Prentiss Nixon had 14 and senior forward Che Bob had 12. Junior forward Deion James and redshirt sophomore forward Nico Carvacho each grabbed 10 rebounds.
Utah State finished the game shooting 50.0 percent (28-of-56) from the floor, 28.0 percent (7-of-25) from behind the 3-point line and 72.2 percent (13-of-18) at the free throw line. Colorado State shot 39.1 percent (25-of-64) from the floor, 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from behind the 3-point line and 50.0 percent (7-of-14) at the free throw line.
Utah State next takes on No. 2 Boise State in the MW quarterfinals on Thursday, March 8, at 7 p.m. (MT).
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 (youtube.com/utahstateathletics). Aggie fans can follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter (@usuathletics), on Facebook (facebook.com/usuathletics) or on Instagram (@usuathletics).
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