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‘You couldn’t have scripted tonight any better’: Utah State Aggies blow out San Jose State on Senior Night

Utah State forward Justin Bean (34) shoots as San Jose State guard Richard Washington (22) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Logan, Utah.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP

LOGAN — Thanks to a 9 p.m. start, Tuesday night’s game at the Spectrum between San Jose State and Utah State was already in danger of being a yawn fest.

But the Aggies made absolutely certain there would be little drama in their final regular-season home game by scoring the first 19 points on their way to a 94-56 blowout of the Spartans.

“It was a special, special night. You couldn’t have scripted tonight any better,” said senior USU guard Sam Merrill, who played possibly the final home game of his remarkable career on Tuesday. “Thanks to the fans who were willing to show up on a late night, Tuesday night at 9 o’clock against not a big brand opponent. I know it would have been easy for most fans to not show up and to watch the game on their TVs. But for those who did show up, we are so thankful and it was just a perfect night.

“Our mindset was fantastic leading up to the game, and throughout most of the game.”

Merrill certainly did his part to make it a memorable Senior Night in front of 8,925 fans, knocking down four 3-pointers and totaling 18 points in just 28 minutes. The former Bountiful High standout currently sits third on USU’s all-time scoring list at 2,096 points, just behind Greg Grant (2,127) and well back of Jaycee Carroll (2,522).

Heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale at New Mexico, Utah State (12-5 in the Mountain West, 23-7 overall) has won six straight games and is tied for second place in the conference standings with another team that has won six in a row, Nevada (12-5, 19-10).

Sophomore center Neemias Queta went 9 for 16 from the field and 5 for 6 from the free-throw line on his way to a 23-point, 10-rebound night for the Aggies, while sophomore forward Justin Bean also notched his 15th double-double of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

“They looked like an NCAA Tournament team, which I think they are,” SJSU head coach jean Prioleau said. “We couldn’t guard them inside; size was a big factor. When you’re at that high end of the league, you look at the top half of our league and there is size, and we could not compete with that.”

Joining Merrill in playing possibly their final game at the Spectrum were junior guard Abel Porter (six points, six rebounds), senior guard Diogo Brito (six points, five rebounds and five assists) and senior forward Roche Grootfaam (four points). Porter, who has already completed his bachelor’s degree, will receive his master’s degree in May and his forgoing his final season of college eligibility.

“What an exciting night. That will be a memory that all four of those guys will remember forever,” USU head coach Craig Smith said. “All of our guys were playing for them. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in life when you don’t worry about yourself and you do things for others. It’s so rewarding and humbling and peaceful, all of those kind of things at the same time. That was fun to see, and hopefully we can keep this momentum going the rest the way.”

Utah State didn’t surrender a San Jose State field goal until six minutes into the game, while Merrill knocked down three early 3-pointers to extend the home team’s lead to 20 points with 13:36 left in the first half. The Aggies would go on to lead by a shocking margin of 51-14 at halftime, and San Jose State (3-14, 7-22) never got any closer than 32 points in the second half as USU pulled away by as many as 43 points in the final minutes of the game.

All 11 Aggies who played scored at least one basket, and the home team shot 48.6% as a team, while going 10 for 21 from 3-point range. The Spartans ended up with three players in double figures and shot 38.6% in the second half after converting just 5 of 29 field-goal attempts in the first 20 minutes of their eighth straight loss.

Utah State has now won 28 straight games at home against San Jose State, and 24 of their last 25 games against the Spartans.