Sam Merrill Helps Utah State Survive Scare From New Mexico In MWC Tourney

Mar 5, 2020, 9:28 PM | Updated: 10:05 pm
Sam Merrill - Utah State Aggies - New Mexico Lobos...
Sam Merrill #5 of the Utah State Aggies shoots against the New Mexico Lobos during their game at Dreamstyle Arena - The Pit on February 29, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. –  Utah State guard Sam Merrill scored 29 points and helped the No. 2 Aggies survive a scare during their Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals matchup against the New Mexico Lobos.

Merrill and the Aggies played against the Lobos at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 5.

The USU guard led the Aggies to late comeback against the Lobos to advance to the semifinals of the MWC tournament.

After jumping out to an early 18-5 lead to start the game, Utah State allowed New Mexico a run of its own and the two teams were tied 33-33 at halftime.

In the second half, Merrill scored 7 quick points to stretch the Aggies’ advantage up to four points.

Again, the Lobos responded.

New Mexico got hot from the field and took a 57-46 lead with 9:38 left in the game.

Utah State spent a majority of the second half with two of its best players, Merrill and Neemias Queta, in foul trouble.

Aggies head coach Craig Smith tactically managed Merrill and Queta’s play throughout the second half and reinserted the two players back into the back to help Utah State pull back late.

After hitting three sets of free throws of a span of a couple of minutes, Merrill connected on a triple to give Utah State its first lead in nearly 12 minutes of action at 68-65 with 2:43 remaining.

Merrill finished the game with 29 points on 10-15 shooting including 2-5 from three. He scored 18 of his points during the second half. Merrill added 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and a steal in the win.

“Sam Merrill is amazing. He should be in the NBA Draft. He kicked out butts,” said New Mexico Paul Weir about Merrill’s performance against his team.

Queta added 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and a block.

USU guard Diogo Brito got cooking late and poured in 15 points on 6-9 field goals.

Aggies forward Justin Bean recorded a double-double of 10 points and 15 boards.

Utah State finished the game shooting 50.9 percent from the field including 27.8 percent from downtown.

New Mexico shot 35.5 percent overall and 25.8 percent from the arc.

The Lobos were led by Jaquan Lyle’s 20 points.

With the win, the Aggies advanced to the MWC tourney semifinals and will face the winner of the quarterfinals matchup featuring Nevada and Wyoming.

Utah State will play Nevada/Wyoming on Friday, March 6 at 9:30 p.m. (MDT).

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