LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball will play at Valparaiso on Tuesday, Nov. 28, as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. The game was announced by the Mountain West on Wednesday morning.
The Crusaders tied for first place in the Horizon League last season, but lost to Illinois in the first round of the NIT, finishing the year with an overall mark of 24-9 and a league mark of 14-4. Valpo returns seven letter winners, but will be without its two leading scorers from a year ago in departed seniors Alec Peters (23.0 ppg) and Shane Hammick (15.1 ppg). Senior guard Tevonn Walker will be looked to for points after he finished third on the team with 11.9 points per game.
“We are excited to play another program that has a proud basketball tradition, similar to our tradition,” USU head coach Tim Duryea said. “It has been a program that has national respect among coaches and is looked at, in the coaching profession, as a program that does things the right way.
“It has been a tough place to play throughout the years,” he continued. “They came on the national season with Bryce Drew and the run they made in the national tournament a few years ago and they have continued that strong tradition ever since.”
The Aggies have not faced Valparaiso since the 1995-96 season, when the Crusaders posted a 79-70 victory at Valpo. USU is 1-1 all-time in the Challenge, picking up a 69-68 victory at Missouri State in 2015-16 and losing a 62-61 decision at Indiana State on a last-second shot last season in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Utah State is 12-9 all-time against members of the Missouri Valley Conference, having faced Illinois State the most and leading the Redbirds, 4-3.
USU will be among the first three games of the MW/MVC Challenge, sharing the opening day with Loyola (Chicago) at Boise State and Colorado State at Missouri State. Four more games follow on Wednesday, Nov. 29, in UNLV at Northern Iowa, Air Force at Indiana State, Illinois State at Nevada, and Evansville at New Mexico. The final games of the Challenge are set for the first weekend of December, when San José State plays at Southern Illinois, and Drake plays at Wyoming on Saturday, Dec. 2. San Diego State will host the final game, facing Bradley in San Diego on Sunday, Dec. 3.
Utah State is set to return seven letter winners from last season, including the top two freshmen in the league from a year ago in Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen, the 2016-17 Mountain West Freshman of the Year. The duo finished second and third on the team in scoring last season as McEwen averaged 14.9 points, and Merrill 9.4 points per game.
The rest of the 2017-18 men’s basketball schedule is anticipated to be released in the coming weeks.
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