Wade Denniston, USU Athletic Media Relations
LOGAN, Utah -- Led by five players scoring in double figures, Utah State men's basketball opened the home portion of its schedule with a thrilling, 93-84 victory over NJIT on Monday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Three of the Aggies' starting five reached double figures, led by Jalen Moore, who scored 19 points, to go along with seven rebounds, five assists two blocks and one steal. The senior wing now has 1,160 points and is just four away from tying his father for 25th on Utah State's all-time scoring list.
Not only was this Utah State's home opener, it also marked the Aggies' first contest in the Cancun Challenge. The Aggies (2-0) will also host Idaho State on Saturday night as part of the Challenge.
Damon Lynn scored a game-high 34 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the floor, including 6-of-17 from 3-point range, for NJIT (1-1), which came into the game fresh off a 100-38 victory over Sarah Lawrence.
The Aggies shot a sizzling 57.7 percent from the field (30-of-52) for the game, including 43.5 percent from 3-point range (10-of-23). Utah State made the first nine foul shots it took and finished the night 23-of-31 from the charity stripe (74.2 percent).
The Highlanders shot 28-of-63 from the field (44.4 percent), including 11-of-33 from behind the arc (33.3 percent), and 17-of-23 from the free throw line (73.9 percent).
Utah State, which has now won 23 straight home openers dating back to the 1993-94 season, had a strong bench presence against NJIT. True freshman guard Sam Merrill and junior forward Ngor Barnaba were big reasons why as that duo scored 15 and 12 points, respectively. The Aggies' bench scored 31 points, compared to just 10 by the Highlanders.
Utah State led by as many as 14 in the first half, but NJIT clawed back into it and took its first lead of the night, 59-58, following a 3-pointer by Tim Coleman with 9:40 to remaining in the game. Coleman finished with 16 points.
An old-fashioned 3-point play Rob Ukawuba, who recorded 12 points, six assists and five rebounds on the night, gave the Highlanders a 62-60 lead with 8:39 to go.
That was the last time NJIT led, though. Just 11 seconds later, Shane Rector drilled a straight-away 3-pointer to make it 63-62 for the hosts. The senior guard from the Bronx, N.Y., nearly gave the Aggies six players in double figures as he finished with nine points, to go along with seven assists and zero turnovers. It is the second time this year and eighth time in his career that he has recorded at least five helpers in a game.
Moore's game-high seven boards helped Utah State outrebound NJIT 34-28. The Aggies also had 22 assists on 30 baskets.
The Aggies scored the first five points of the game and eventually opened up a 39-25 advantage following a layup by sophomore forward Quinn Taylor with 5:19 remaining in the first half. The Highlanders trimmed the deficit to 46-37 by the break, though.
This was the first-ever meeting between Utah State and NJIT. The Aggies are now 223-109 all-time against first-time opponents.
Utah State will now turn its attention to Bristol for an exhibition contest on Wednesday. The Aggies and Bears are slated to tip off at 7 p.m., in the Spectrum.
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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