LOGAN – Jalen Moore took a pass near the top of the key with less than 45 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s game. The Aggies led Wyoming by just three points in a tight game that had already seen 16 lead changes. The senior elevated and took his 3-point shot. The crowd went silent, then, less than a second later, celebrated.
“It sealed the game for us,” sophomore forward Alex Dargenton said. “We needed a shot like that.”
Moore scored 23 points in Utah State’s 81-74 victory that ended the two-game losing skid. Head coach Tim Duryea said in terms of leadership, it may have been the senior’s best game at USU.
It was a game where leadership was needed. Duryea said some of his players were struggling, and, like the last two games against Wyoming, the Cowboys came out hitting deep shots. Seven Wyoming players combined for 12 3-pointers.
“They can really shoot the ball,” sophomore forward Quinn Taylor said, “but I feel like we did a good job tonight executing our defensive game plan.”
In addition to Moore, Taylor (14 points), Sam Merrill (13 points), Koby McEwen (12 points) and Dargenton (11 points) each scored double figures. McEwen and Dargenton each recorded a game nine rebounds; Taylor added seven. The Aggies finished with a 41-26 advantage on the boards.
“I told them before the game, if you believe the league stats it says we are going to outrebound them by five or six,” Duryea said. “To outrebound those guys 15, I thought (Dargenton and Taylor) were very, very active.”
Back to back 3-pointers by Merrill and Moore and a big block by Dargenton sparked an 11-0 run that put the Aggies up 21-13 early. Wyoming’s Hayden Dalton ended the run with a left corner 3-pointer, the first of five Cowboy 3s during a six minute block. Another came a little later at the 6:05 mark that gave Wyoming a 35-33 lead, its first in almost 10 minutes. In all, Wyoming made eight shots from beyond the arc during the first half.
“At the end of the first half I thought, ‘We’re in for another shootout,’” Duryea said. “We played about as good as we could offensively in the first half.”
USU led 43-42 at halftime after trading leads three more times before the break, but lost it just seconds into the second half when senior guard Jason McManamen hit another 3-pointer. Neither team would lead by more than four until a Merrill trey sparked a 7-0 run to put USU up six with 3:25 to go.
The win put USU at 5-8 in conference, one game behind eighth place San Diego State. The Aztecs will be in Logan to take on USU Wednesday.
“The feeling in the locker room is that we have six more chances to have a big impact in conference,” Dargenton said. “We have to go hard and give all we got.”
Shane Rector missed his third-straight game due to injury, but Duryea said he thinks he is close to returning.
“We just didn’t feel like there was enough range of motion in his wrist without pain that he could what he needed to do,” he said. “We’re going to give him an MRI in the next day or two to make sure we haven’t missed anything.”