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• Utah State wraps up a five-game road trip on Tuesday night when the Aggies face Valparaiso (7-0) in the Aggies’ annual installment of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge. Tip is set for 6 p.m. (MT), with the game heard on the Aggie Sports Network and seen on watchespn.com.
• Utah State is in the final leg of a 13-day road swing that included stops at Gonzaga (Nov. 18) and Portland State (Nov. 20), along with neutral-site games against Northeastern (11/24) and New Hampshire (11/25) in Nashville, Tenn.
• Utah State is 0-1 all-time against Valparaiso following a 79-70 loss against the Crusaders in the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii, during the 1995-96 season.
• Utah State is 1-1 all-time in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, capturing a 69-68 victory at Missouri State during the 2015-16 season before losing 62-61 to Indiana State at home last season on a last-second shot.
Valparaiso is a perfect 7-0 this season, including 4-0 at home. The 2017-18 season marks the first year for the Crusaders in the Missouri Valley Conference, moving from the Horizon league.
Offensively, Valpo is led by Tevonn Walker with 16.1 points per game, followed by Bakari Evelyn with 11.7 and Markus Golder with 11.1 points per game, respectively. As a team, the Crusaders are averaging 84.6 points per game and shooting 49.9 percent (198-of-397) from the floor, 35.3 percent (47-of-133) from behind the 3-point line and 73.0 percent (149-of-204) at the free throw line. Evelyn and Walker are also first and second on the team in assists, totaling 26 and 14 assists, respectively.
Defensively, opponents are averaging 59.3 points per game and shooting 34.6 percent (138-of-399) from the floor, 24.5 percent (40-of-163) from behind the 3-point line and 70.2 percent (99-of-141) at the free throw line. Walker leads the team with 16 steals and Golder is tops on the team with six blocks.
Head coach Matt Lottich is in his second year at the helm in Valparaiso, guiding the Crusaders to an overall mark of 31-9.
Stepping Up in time of Need
With the injuries, sophomore guard Sam Merrill has seen more of the spotlight offensively, averaging 20.7 points per game and shooting 53.8 percent (21-of-39) from the floor, 42.9 percent (9-of-21) from behind the 3-point line and 84.6 percent (11-of-13) at the free throw line in games Koby McEwen has not played this year. Merrill has also led the Aggies with 10 assists during the three games.
Next Man Up
Sophomore guard Diogo Brito has seen his minutes also increased significantly during the same stretch and is averaging 11.7 points and 27.0 minutes per game. Brito’s career averages were 0.8 points and 6.1 minutes per game coming into the 2017-18 season.
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