Utah State picked up its fourth-straight victory over the Air Force Academy, posting a 78-65 win at Clune Arena on Tuesday night. The Aggies hit a season-high 14 3-point shots, shooting 41.7 percent (14-of-34) from behind the arc en route to the win.
Senior guard Chris Smith led the way from deep, finishing with 23 points and shooting 9-of-14 from the floor, including a season-best 5-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. Junior wing Jalen Moore matched the scoring performance with a career-high 23 as well, moving to No. 31 on the all-time scoring list in USU history with 1,064 career points. The 20-point tandem was the first since Dec. 2, 2014, when Chris Smith (25) and Darius Perkins (21) each surpassed the 20-point mark in the same game against BYU.
Sophomore guard Julion Pearre rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Aggies, tallying 10 and marking the third-consecutive game that he has scored double figures against the Falcons.
With the win, Utah State moved to 15-13 overall on the year as head coach Tim Duryea matched mentor Stew Morrill’s first-year win total. The Aggies also improved to 7-10 in the Mountain West, while Air Force dropped to 14-16 and 5-12 in league play.
Utah State opened and closed the first half with runs, taking an 11-6 lead into the first media timeout after making three of its first four shots from behind the 3-point line. The Aggies then closed the half with a 14-4 run during the final four minutes to take a 40-33 lead into the break.
USU opened the second half 0-for-5 from the floor but was able to get defensive stops on the other end and ultimately found its shooting touch with back-to-back threes from Pearre and Smith to open up a double-digit lead, 50-40, with 14:40 on the clock. The double-digit margin held throughout the rest of the game with the difference growing to as much as 18, 66-48, on a layup by Moore. A final three by Smith, followed by a free throw by AFA’s Zach Kocur led to the final score, 78-65.
Air Force was paced by four players in double figures in junior forward Hayen Graham (14), sophomore guard C.J. Siples (13), senior forward Zach Moer (11) and sophomore guard Jacob Van with 10. The Falcons shot 48.2 percent (27-of-56) from the floor, 26.9 percent (7-of-26) from behind the 3-point line and 50.0 percent (4-of-8) from the free-throw line. Utah State wrapped up its night shooting 50.0 percent (30-of-60) from the floor, including season highs of 34 attempts and 14 makes from behind the arc, and 80.0 percent (4-of-5) from the free-throw line.
Utah State returns to the court in the 2015-16 regular season finale when the Aggies host Fresno State on Saturday, March 5, at 7 p.m., in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The game will be Senior Night, and the 2015-16 senior class of Smith, Darius Perkins, Trace Cureton and Grayson Moore will be recognized before tipoff.
Kyle Cottam is the Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations at Utah State University.