LAS VEGAS — After struggling in its first game in the Mountain West Conference Tournament the night before, the Utah State basketball team put it all together in Friday’s semifinals, taking a convincing 85-60 victory over Fresno State at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Aggies, who improved to 27-6 on the season, were sharp from the start and dominated in every way shooting 49 percent from the field and 43 from 3-point range, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 43-28 and playing relatively error-free with just nine turnovers.

The Ags will play San Diego State in Saturday’s championship game at 4 p.m. MT after the Aztecs knocked off No. 1 seed Nevada 65-56 earlier Friday night. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

The Aggies came into the game, having won 15 of their last 16 games and already a lock for an NCAA Tournament berth according to most experts.

They were taking on a Fresno team that they had played to a pair of one-point games during the regular season, winning one and losing one. The Bulldogs had bulldozed Air Force 76-50 in the late quarterfinal game to earn a rematch with the Aggies, who knocked off New Mexico 91-83 in a hard-fought game.

However, the Aggies took control from the start, rolling to a 50-27 halftime lead and not letting up in the second half when they led by as much as 35 points.

Sam Merrill, who was named MWC Player of the Year earlier in the week, led the Aggies with 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting while Diogo Brito scored 20x points off the bench. Abel Porter scored 11 points Brock Miller added 10 points and Neemias Queta had 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Fresno State, which shot just 37.0 percent from the field, was led by Nate Grimes with 14 points.

USU first-year coach Craig Smith said he couldn’t be more proud of his young team that includes six true freshmen.

“At the end of the day, our guys have great resolve.they have great pride,” said Smith “They want to represent Utah State in the right fashion. I don’t want to sound like a cliche — I cannot give these guys enough credit.”

Unlike the night before against New Mexico, the Aggies got off to a quick start as Merrill hit a 3-pointer off a set play 15 seconds into the game and followed with a floater in the lane. The Aggies led 9-2 early …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News


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Aggies dominate Bulldogs, advance to MWC championship game against SDSU

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