Utah State loses 70-53 at UNLV

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Utah State was held to its lowest shooting percentage of the season and its lowest point total as the Aggies resumed Mountain West play with a 70-53 New Year’s Day loss to UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday.

Justin Bean led the Aggies with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season, which is tied for first in the nation. With his 11 boards against the Runnin’ Rebels, the sophomore forward now has 183 total rebounds on the season, which is tops nationally.

Senior guard Sam Merrill chipped in 10 points for USU, which shot 32.7 percent from the field (17-of-52). The Aggies (13-3, 2-1 MW), who had their three-game winning streak snapped, shot 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from behind the 3-point line. USU shot 81.0 percent from the free throw line (17-of-21).

Utah State’s previous season low in field goal percentage was 35.0 percent in a 77-70 win over Fresno State. Prior to Wednesday night, the Aggies had scored at least 64 points in each contest.

Bryce Hamilton scored 20 points in 22 minutes on 9-of-11 shooting from the field to lead UNLV (7-8, 2-0 MW). Amauri Hardy added 14 points, while Cheikh Mbacke Diong rounded out thee Runnin’ Rebels’ double-digit scorers with 10 points.

UNLV shot 44.6 percent from the field (25-of-56), including 26.3 percent from downtown (5-of-19), and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe (15-of-21).

UNLV led all but one minute and six seconds in the game. The Runnin’ Rebels scored 14 points off of 13 Aggie turnovers and outscored the visitors in the paint, 38-26.

Utah State, which was without the services of sophomore center Neemias Queta, fell behind 5-0 before using a 6-0 run to take its first lead of the night. A layup by Merrill with 16:16 remaining in the opening half gave the Aggies their final lead of the night at 8-7.

UNLV went into the break with a comfortable 37-26 advantage, then pushed it out to as many as 24 in the second half.

Utah State returns home to face No. 13/12 San Diego State on Saturday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m., at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The game between the Aggies and undefeated Aztecs (14-0, 3-0 MW) will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network.

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