by Ashley Springer, USU Athletic Media Relations
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Utah State men’s basketball (6-7, 0-2 Mountain West) lost 78-73 at Air Force (8-7, 1-1 Mountain West) on Saturday afternoon in its conference road opener. Senior wing Jalen Moore scored in double-figures for the 26th consecutive game, finishing with 21 points.
Freshman guard Koby McEwen led the Aggies with a career-high 22 points and five made 3-pointers, along with six rebounds and five assists. Freshman guard Sam Merrill had a career-high seven assists and added nine points. Junior forward Ngor Barnaba led the Aggies on the glass with a career-high nine rebounds.
Air Force took an early 15-0 start with 15:42 remaining in the first half. The Aggies responded with a 19-4 run. Moore knocked down three treys to cut the lead 19-11 with 13:39 left in the first. An and-1 from McEwen and a triple from Merrill brought it to 19-17 with 12:31 to play in the opening. A bucket from junior guard Julion Pearre tied it up at 19 with 12:09 remaining in the first.
The Falcons led 29-25 with 8:56 left in the first half, but a couple of free throws from senior guard Shane Rector and a dunk from McEwen tied it up at 29-29 with 6:39 to go. A three from Merrill gave the Aggies their first lead of the night, 34-31, with 4:43 to play in the first. Air Force then proceeded on a 9-0 run to close out the half leading 40-34.
Air Force continued the run and scored the first five points of the second half, but Merrill knocked down a trey to cut the difference to 45-37 with 18:05 left. USU then went on a run of its own, 7-0, sparked by a triple from McEwen then followed by layups from Barnaba and Rector, to come within three, 47-44, with 15:34 remaining. A 3-pointer from Moore brought it within two, 49-47, with 14:21 to play in the second.
Another three from Moore and a couple of free throws from McEwen made it a one-point game, 53-52, with just under eleven minutes to play, but Air Force maintained its advantage, leading by as many as six, 58-52, with 10 minutes remaining. McEwen knocked down two threes, one to bring it within one and another to tie it at 68-68 with 3:44 left to play. The Falcons responded with a couple of treys of their own to regain the lead, 74-68, with 1:39 left in the game. A triple from McEwen made it a two-point ballgame, 75-73, with 49 seconds to play. However, Air Force was able to hold the Aggies off with a few made free throws down the stretch to win, 78-73.
The Falcons were led by junior guard Jacob Van with 16 points, four rebounds and an assist. Senior forward Hayden Graham and junior center Frank Toohey each contributed 11 points. Graham led the Falcons with two blocks. Junior guard CJ Siples led Air Force with five assists along with seven points, four rebounds and three steals. Sophomore forward Dane Norman had five points and five rebounds.
Utah State finished the game shooting 46.3 percent (25-of-54), including 39.4 percent (13-of-33) from behind the arc, while shooting 90.9 percent (10-of-11) from the free throw line. Air Force shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the floor, 47.6 percent (10-of-21) from behind the 3-point line and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from the free throw line.
USU will next face New Mexico (8-5, 1-0 Mountain West) on Wednesday at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. (MT) and will be televised on ESPNU.
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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