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Utah State holds off Boise State rally to win, 70-61, on night of 50th anniversary Spectrum celebration

Boise State forward RJ Williams (23) knocks the ball out of the hands of Utah State guard Sam Merrill (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Logan, Utah.
Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP

LOGAN — While it wasn’t quite the magical evening of celebration Aggie fans had hoped for, Utah State still managed to pull out a 70-61 victory over Boise State Saturday night at the Spectrum.

Sophomore center Neemias Queta led the way for the Aggies (8-5 in the Mountain West, 19-7 overall) with 21 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, while senior guard Sam Merrill totaled 17 points. Limited by foul trouble the entire game, Merrill ended up just four points short of becoming the fourth Aggie to ever reach 2,000 points for a career.

Utah State led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but the Broncos (8-5, 16-9) managed to get to within as little as one point down the stretch.

The Aggies, who celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Saturday, were able to keep Boise State at bay this time, unlike the first game between the two rivals on Jan. 18 in Boise. Utah State blew an 18-point lead in the final four minutes of the contest, eventually losing 88-83 in overtime.

Saturday was also the 55th anniversary of when Aggie legend Wayne Estes scored his 2,001st career point, only to die just hours later on the evening of Feb. 8, 1965. It seemed only appropriate that Merrill would catch up to Estes on the same date and move into third place on USU’s all-time scoring list, but the Bountiful High product picked up his fourth foul just 40 seconds into the second and logged just 23 total minutes.

Merrill still went 4 for 7 from the field and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line to help USU pull out the win.

Sophomore forward Justin Bean finished with 16 rebounds to help USU win the rebounding battle 48 to 31. The rebounds were key for the Aggies, who shot just 38% as a team and went 2 for 19 from 3-point range.

The Broncos, whose coaching staff includes former USU head coach Tim Duryea, shot 35.5% and went 6 for 29 from beyond the arc. Justinian Jessup led Boise State with 20 points, and Alex Hobbs added 15.