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3 keys to Utah State’s 91-76 Mountain West quarterfinal win over New Mexico

Taylor Funk finished with a season-high 32 points to lead the Aggies to the blowout victory in Las Vegas

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Utah State Aggies forward Taylor Funk posts up

Utah State Aggies forward Taylor Funk (23) gets to work on New Mexico Lobos guard Javonte Johnson (13) as Utah State and New Mexico play in the Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Utah State is playing like it isn’t going to put its opportunity to dance in the hands of a selection committee.

The bubble-sitting Aggies routed New Mexico 91-76 late Thursday night in a Mountain West tournament quarterfinal game at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Third-seeded Utah State (25-7) will meet second-seeded Boise State in a semifinal Friday night at 9 p.m. MST. 

Despite entering Thursday’s game with a NET ranking of 22, the Aggies were said to be on the bubble by several bracketologists.

Here are 3 keys to Utah State’s convincing win against New Mexico:

• The Aggies staved off foul trouble and shot a blistering 12 of 24 from 3-point range — their bread and butter all season — to thwart the Lobos’ upset bid. New Mexico was just 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.

• Utah State led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but could never quite put the Lobos away until the final minutes. Dan Akin had 17 points for the Aggies on 7 of 9 shooting, as USU shot 48% from the field.

• Taylor Funk scored Utah State’s first 16 points and had 21 at halftime, on 7 of 11 shooting. Steven Ashworth didn’t take a shot until 9:38 remaining in the first half, but still had 11 before the break.
Funk finished with 32 and Ashworth had 22 while playing much of the second half with four fouls.