Aggies win grind-it-out battle against New Orleans

LOGAN – Koby McEwen scored 19 and Jalen Moore added 18 in a 76-66 victory at home over the New Orleans Privateers. Despite leading for more than 31 minutes, the Aggies had trouble putting the game out of reach.

The win improved USU’s record to 6-4, while New Orleans fell to 4-6.

“It was a grind-it-out kind of a night,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “We had some stretches where we were good, and we had some stretches where we weren’t very good.”

After 10 lead changes in the first 20 minutes, the Aggies went into the break with a 33-31 lead. Neither team had led by more than four points at that point. USU did go up by nine early in the second half, but New Orleans answered with a 6-0 run and later cut the Aggie lead to one with 8:53 remaining. Just when it seemed the Privateers had the momentum, Aggie guard Sam Merrill responded with a 3-pointer from the left corner put the USU back up four.

“That was probably the shot of the game in terms of turning the tide back our way a little bit,” Duryea said. “They had it going and were knocking down some shots. They had gotten our lead down.”

The Aggies finally got some breathing room in the last minute-and-a-half when McEwen followed up his pair of free throws with a drive to the hoop that turned into an and-1 play. It put the Aggies up 12.

McEwen said he likes to be the type of player that drives to hoop to draw fouls. He said that is who he normally is, and he plans on doing more of it.

“I haven’t been doing it early on in the season,” he said. “I’m just trying to get back to being tough around the rim, getting to the basket, getting fouled and making my free throws.”

Duryea said there was little to complain about, but said the thing that concerned him the most was his team’s 15 turnovers.

“There were too many turnovers in transition, too many turnovers in the open court by our guards” Duryea said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball.”

New Orlean’s Erik Thomas led both teams with 21 points and added nine rebounds. His teammate Travin Thibodeaux also had nine rebounds, but USU was able to use a team effort to win the rebounding battle 37-33.

Moore’s 18-point performance was put him at 1,287 career points, passing former player and current assistant coach Spencer Nelson.

“He’s happy about it,” Moore said of Nelson. “He’s a good supporter of me.”

The Aggies will have a one-day break before a home matchup with Weber State Wednesday night.

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