by Ashley Springer, USU Athletic Media Relations
VALPARAISO, Ind. – Utah State (4-4) capped a season-long 13-day road trip with a 72-65 loss at Valparaiso on Tuesday night.
The Aggies were led by sophomore guard Sam Merrill with 19 points and a team-best four assists. He was followed in scoring by redshirt freshman forward Daron Henson with 10, while junior guard DeAngelo Isby led the Aggies on the glass with seven rebounds.
Utah State jumped out to a 6-2 lead behind buckets by sophomore guard Diogo Brito and Merrill over the opening two minutes. Valpo countered and took a four-point lead, 13-9, but threes by junior forward Quinn Taylor and Brito, followed by free throws from Isby put the Aggies back up 17-13. The Crusaders responded with a 9-0 run to regain the 22-17 lead with 8:53 to go in the half. Merrill knocked down a trey to end the run, and redshirt freshman forward Daron Henson followed with a triple of his own to help USU regain the 23-22 lead with just under eight minutes to play. The Crusaders led by as many as seven, 34-27, with 2:13 on the clock, but a Merrill jumper and a couple free throws from redshirt freshman guard Abel Porter brought Utah State within three, 34-31, going into the break.
Valpo used a 6-2 run to open the second half, taking a 40-33 lead with 17:17 left to play. The teams traded baskets until a free throw and layup from senior forward Alex Dargenton made it a four-point game, 48-44, with 12:13 to play. A minute later, Henson knocked down another 3-pointer to cut the lead to three, 50-47, with 11:13 remaining. The Crusaders extended the lead to eight, 59-51, with 7:36 on the clock. Free throws from Merrill and redshirt freshman forward Klay Stall made it 59-54 with 6:42 to go. After a Merrill layup, Valparaiso extended its lead to nine, 65-56, with 2:44 to play. With just under a minute and a half left in the game, Merrill knocked down a trey and the Aggies were back to within six, 65-59. After a pair of Crusader free throws, Henson hit a three to make it 67-62 with 42 seconds left, however free throws down the stretch sealed the victory for Valpo, 72-65.
The Crusaders, a perfect 8-0 on the year, were led in scoring by Tevonn Walker with 25, followed by Jaume Sorolla with 16 and Bakari Evelyn with 10. Walker also led Valparaiso on the glass, finishing with nine rebounds.
Overall, Utah State shot a season-low 32.3 percent (20-of-62) from the floor, and tied a season low with only nine 3-point shots, shooting 27.3 percent (9-of-33) from long range. The Aggies also left points at the free throw line, shooting 59.3 percent (16-of-27) at the charity stripe. Valparaiso finished the game shooting 42.6 percent (26-of-61) from the floor, 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from behind the 3-point line and 72.0 percent (18-of-25) at the free throw line.
Utah State will be back in action on Saturday, hosting in-state rival BYU inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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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