Aggies start conference play with home win over San Jose State

LOGAN – Utah State was able to turn turnovers into points to win its conference opener Wednesday night in the Spectrum. The Aggies scored 36 points off a season-high 23 turnovers to defeat San Jose State 86-72.

“We did a good job of disrupting them,” head coach Tim Duryea said. “We were communicating, we were moving around.”

USU recorded a season-high 23 assists while turning the ball over a season-low four times.

“We were just playing smart basketball, moving the ball,” said Koby McEwen, who scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds – both game highs. “If we do that every night I think we’ll have a good chance to be good in this league.”

McEwen’s performance came after weeks of battling injury and sickness. The sophomore guard said he isn’t 100 percent physically, but is 100 percent mentally.

“I feel fresh,” he said. “It’s a new start. I didn’t have the preseason I wanted, but that’s all right. It’s the (conference) season that matters.”

Sophomore guard Sam Merrill tallied 18 points and nine assists while Dwayne Brown Jr. added another 16 points. Diogo Brito said he feels like he is starting to see the floor better. The sophomore guard scored 11 points while adding six assists and five steals.

“Today I had an opportunity to get deflections, which is what coaches ask me to do a lot,” he said. “I’ve been able to do that in practice and now I can bring that to the game.”

Brown scored eight points early on, helping Utah State grab a quick 20-5 advantage less than seven minutes in. That first half lead eventually peaked at 19, then the Spartans went on a 12-2 run. The Aggies responded by scoring the final seven points of the half to take a 44-28 lead at the break.

“I thought we came right out of the gate aggressive,” McEwen said. “We prepped their stuff really well. We executed the game plan really well.”

Behind a combined five 3-pointers from McEwen, Merrill and Brown, USU extended its lead to 25 before the midway point of the second half, but San Jose State was able prevent the Aggies from running away by making a bunch of its own 3-pointers. The Spartans finished 11-of-19 from beyond the arc. SJSU’s Ryan Wellage was 4-of-7 from 3-point range and led his team with 22 points.

“We should have done a little better job stopping those guys,” Brito said. “They just had a lot of wide-open shots we shouldn’t have let them have.”

Because of an ankle injury, Alex Dargenton returned to court for his first game since Dec. 9. Duryea said Dargenton was playing with the flu, but fought through it and was effective.

“I was really proud of Alex,” Duryea said. “He stepped up and gave us some huge minutes. Obviously we are much better when we have he and Quinn (Taylor) and Dwayne (Brown) all available.”

USU will bring its 1-0 conference record to Viejas Arena this Saturday to play San Diego State.

“Hopefully we are going into it with a little confidence,” Duryea said.

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