LOGAN – With 7:49 remaining in Saturday afternoon’s basketball game, UNLV looked to be gaining momentum. Freshman guard Sam Merrill, who had 14 points, went to the bench with four fouls. Immediately after, UNLV cut the lead to five and appeared ready for more. That is when another Aggie freshman guard took over.
In less than two minutes, Koby McEwen dropped three treys that started the 22-9 final push to give USU a 79-63 win over the Rebels. McEwen’s 28 points tied Jaycee Carroll’s school record for most by a true freshman. With the win, USU is 8-7 overall and evened up its conference record at 2-2.
McEwen also had a team-high six assists and tied Alexis Dargenton for a game-high seven rebounds. Junior guard Julion Pearre said he isn’t surprised by what his freshman teammate did.
“That kid, he’s special,” Pearre said. “He can do it all.”
McEwen said he felt great shooting the ball, like he wasn’t going to miss.
“It feels like the basket is the ocean and I’m throwing rocks in it,” he said. “When you get in that mode you try not to force things, because it can make you look pretty stupid. So you just go with the flow.”
McEwen’s 3-pointers were the first half of six USU’s 3-pointers in less than six minutes. Pearre, Shane Rector and Quinn Taylor each contributed one of their own.
“Sometimes that’s what it takes,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “It takes one guy to grab the bull by the horns and jump up and make a couple.”
Pearre said every Aggie on the floor deserved credit for those shots.
“We were making plays for each other,” he said. “We were driving and kicking, which was allowing everybody to get open shots.”
Merrill scored 14 points and Jalen Moore added 12. Overall, USU shot 61.9 percent from the beyond the arc for the game and was 7-for-8 in the second half.
“I think that is the biggest thing in college basketball is how many threes can you make on a nightly basis consistently,” Duryea said. “When you make a lot of them, it sure make everything else seem a lot easier.”
USU started the game by building a 20-12 lead eight minutes in, but UNLV responded with a 14-1 run. Merrill started the Aggie offense back up when he took a Rector pass and turned it into a 3-pointer. It was the beginning of an 11-5 run that put USU up 37-31 at halftime.
“We had a defense lapse, but then again finished with a rush at the end of the first half,” Duryea said.
UNLV took the lead twice in the second half, but both leads were only a single point and lasted less than 30 seconds. Utah State was able to grab 41 rebounds to UNLV’s 32.
“We rebounded well, which was good,” McEwen said. “We needed that. We just played harder than them and that is what coach emphasized.”
The Aggies will now go on the road to play Wyoming Tuesday at 7 p.m. and San Diego State Friday at 8 p.m.