LOGAN – “Any day can be Brock’s day,” senior Diogo Brito said. “Especially if you just let him shoot.”
Tuesday was Brock’s day.
Sophomore Brock Miller poured in a career-high 27 points to lead Utah State in a 97-56 victory over Denver on Tuesday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aggies never trailed during the contest.
“When you see a ball go through the net, it definitely helps with confidence and getting yourself going,” Miller said. “These guys really were able to find open looks for me, I mean wide open. All of us were able to share the ball with each other and get it going early. We came out and jumped on them quick. That was big-time for us.”
Buckets came early and often for Miller and the Aggies, as USU began the game on a 31-7 run over nine minutes. A 9-18 mark from 3-point territory in the first half powered the surge for the Aggies. Miller, Brito and senior Sam Merrill led USU’s perimeter efforts with a combined 8-14 mark from deep in the first 20 minutes. On the opposite side of the court, Utah State’s defensive prowess carried over from Friday’s game versus Weber State, allowing the Aggies to enter halftime with a 53-27 lead.
“I thought the start was big tonight. That was a big key tonight,” head coach Craig Smith said. “(Denver’s) going to be a good team, but when you’re young like that and inexperienced, it’s hard… It’s always important to get out to a good start, but especially against an inexperienced team where you can kind of jump up on them.”
Rather than coast following the break, the Aggies anchored down defensively. USU accumulated four blocks and three steals in the second half, forcing nine turnovers. Utah State also dominated on the boards, outrebounding Denver 25 to 14 in the second half and 50 to 25 over the full game. With the Aggies holding steady defensively and offensively, the margin grew as large as 50 points at the 5:18 mark before the Pioneers slightly trimmed the deficit in the final minutes.
“Second half,” Brito said, “we knew we would have to come exactly the same way (as the first half). I thought we did a great job overall, especially defensively, so we just have to carry that on into the next games.”
Miller’s hot shooting led USU’s offensive outburst. Miller finished with 27 points on 10-19 shooting including 7-15 from behind the arc, also adding four rebounds and three assists.
“(Miller) shoots over people,” Brito said. “He jumps really high and they had a really hard time not only closing out on him but just putting a hand up in his shot because he lifts so much. If he’s feeling it, he’s not going to miss very many and that can be any day for sure.”
JC transfer Alphonso Anderson filled the stat sheet again with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals. Merrill ended with 14 points, five assists and three rebounds. Brito added 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Junior Abel Porter chipped in with seven points and five assists, while sophomore Justin Bean tied a career high with 15 rebounds to go along with eight points. Freshman Sean Bairstow put together the best game of his young career with eight points, two assist, and one rebound and a steal. Fitting to their style, the Aggies involved the entire roster, posting 23 assists on 32 shots.
“We have a smart team, we have an intelligent team,” coach Smith said. “We have a lot of skilled guys that really know how to play. We also have a team that takes accountability as a team and individually… We know how we need to play to have a chance to be good, so that’s going to be always something that we need to look at. We don’t have a ton of ‘break-you-down’ guys, but we do have skill and we do have unselfishness.”
Utah State again played without their starting center, Neemias Queta, who is still out for an unknown length of time while recovering from a knee injury. In his stead, JC transfer Kuba Karwowski anchored the defense with two blocks and two steals on the night, adding two points, four rebounds and an assist. Freshman Trevon Dorius added another block in addition to two points and three rebounds.
“I love the progress of those guys. The progress that Trevon and Kuba have made from a week ago to tonight has been really, really high and I think that’s easy for everyone to see that they’ve been able to impact the game… It’s exciting to see those guys grow and develop. So, where can this team go? The sky’s the limit. We’ve just got to keep going and keep getting better daily. Real cliche answer.”
USU started the season with a nail-biting victory over Montana State but has settled into a groove in the past two games, outscoring Weber State and Denver by a combined 96 points.
“I don’t know if we have that mindset that ‘okay, we’re good, we’re going to come here and beat everybody easily’ or however you want to put it into words. But I think that really woke us up,” Brito said. “We really need to focus. If we want to be good, we have to practice good and play harder than the other team which we didn’t do against Montana State. They were the more aggressive team. But I think these past two games, we really changed that and we really want to do that every game and be the toughest team on the floor.”
After an impressive two-game stretch, USU is now 3-0 on the young season and will return to the court on Friday night in the Spectrum to take on North Carolina A&T. Tip-off is currently scheduled for 7 pm.