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Four Aggies Take Home Mountain West Conference Awards

LOGAN, Utah – The Mountain West Conference released their individual and All-Conference awards following their regular season. The Utah State Aggies were well represented as four individuals were given awards.

The conference hands out six awards to individuals, Utah State had four players and coaches receive recognition. They also vote on three All-Conference teams as well as Honorable Mentions and All-Defensive Team.

Utah State is the No. 2-seed in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

Player Of The Year

Utah State guard Sam Merrill has been named the conference Player of the Year after an outstanding regular season and was also named first team All-Conference. He averaged a league-best 22 points per game, including a 38-point career-high performance in the regular season finale against Colorado State.

Merrill led the conference in free-throws made with 99, an 89 percent free-throw percentage, second in minutes played, third in assist-to-turnover ratio, fourth in three-pointers made and fifth in assists.

The Bountiful, Utah native is the first Aggie to average more than 20 points per game since Jaycee Carroll posted 22.4 points per game. Merrill is the seventh player in school history to be named conference Player of the Year, joining Tai Wesley as the most recent back in 2011.

Coach Of The Year

First year head coach Craig Smith has been named the Mountain West Coach of the Year. He led the Aggies to a share of the regular season conference title, despite being predicted by the media to finish in ninth place in the preseason poll.

He is just the second first-year head coach to be named Coach of the Year in the Mountain West, the other being Utah’s Ray Giacoletti in 2005. The last Utah State coach to win the award was Stew Morrill in 2002.

Their 25 wins under Smith is the most by a first-year head coach in school history and fifth-most by a first-year coach in conference history. Giacoletti had 29 wins in 2005, New Mexico’s Craig Neal won 27 games in 2014, former UNLV head coach Dave Rice picked up 26 wins in 2012, Colorado State’s Larry Eustachy had 26 wins in 2013.

Defensive/Freshman Player Of The Year

Freshman center Neemias Queta has been award the Defensive Player of the Year and the Freshman of the Year in the conference. He was a big reason why the Aggies defense was ranked No. 10 in the nation in field goal percentage defense and third in 2-point field goal percentage.

Queta holds the single-season school record for most blocks in a season with 73, passing the previous mark of 59 rejections. He is the sixth USU player to take home the conference Freshman of the Year and only the second player to win Defensive Player of the Year, joining Shawn Daniels in 2001.

The first year center was also named to the second team All-Mountain West and the All-Defensive team.

Utah State will face the winner of No. 7 New Mexico and No. 10 Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.