Game Ball goes to: Sam Merrill!
Why? Sam Merrill came into the game knocking on the door of 2,000 career points. He not only surpassed it but kicked the door open and surpassed Aggie Legend Wayne Estes to move up to third all time in career scoring for Utah State. Merrill started strong and took what the defense gave him which was a lot early. He also made an important 3 point shot late to help the Aggies win a close game 75-72 at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colorado.
How the War was won: After halftime the defense adjusted and tried to make other players beat them. That’s exactly what happened. The Aggies made it an effort to get the ball inside late as nobody besides Sam Merrill seemed to be able to hit shots from the outside. Diogo Brito had some especially great cuts to the basket and Queta drew a lot of fouls. Queta was in a little foul trouble himself for a while but came back in the game to finish the game strong.
The Aggies last month would have found a way to lose this game but tonight Merrill was too good and didn’t want this to just be a celebratory career milestone. He was quick to mention the importance of this game because the Aggies need to continue to win these Quad 2 games to improve their chances of getting an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Big players show up in big moments and that’s exactly what Sam Merrill did.
Other Awesome Aggies: Last year Sam Merrill had a season high 38 points at Colorado State to clinch the Mountain West regular season title. While Sam Merrill again led the Aggies to victory over the Rams with another season high of 32 points, he was also joined by two other Aggies who scored in double figures. Neemias Queta recorded a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Diogo Brito was the only bench player to score in the game as he chipped in 11 points.
Also don’t ever sleep on the hustle king Justin Bean. While Bean didn’t have his usual double double performance (6 points and 5 rebounds), he hustled for loose balls and had two steals. The Aggies did have only 8 turnovers compared to 10 from the Rams so these extra possessions made all the difference in a final score that ended up being closer than it was for most of the night.