Sam Merrill’s Late Three Sends Utah State To NCAA Tournament

Mar 7, 2020, 5:40 PM | Updated: 8:36 pm

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State star guard Sam Merrill drilled a contested three-pointer with 2.6 seconds remaining that eventually gave the Aggies a 59-56 win over No. 5 San Diego State, sending them to the NCAA Tournament. It’s the second consecutive season that the Aggies have won the Mountain West Conference Tournament Championship.

The Aggies collected a rebound with the score tied at 56. With less than 20 seconds on the clock, Merrill received the ball at half court. He dribbled the ball until the game clock was down to four seconds when Merrill fired a contested three over San Diego State guard K.J. Feagin and nailed it with 2.6 second left.

San Diego State called a timeout to set up a shot but would have to go the full length of the court. Both Utah State and SDSU used up all of their timeouts to make sure they had the right setup.

Aztecs guard Malachi Flynn received the pass at half court and shot the ball. The ball went in the rim before going back out which sealed the upset win for the Aggies.

It’s the first time since March 9, 2007 that Utah State beat a top-10 team. Also, the Aggies are the first back-to-back conference tournament champions since New Mexico in 2013 and 2014.

Merrill finished with 27 points on 6-15 shooting from the three-point line. Neemias Queta added 15 points and 8 rebounds.

Sam Merrill Leads Second Half Surge

The Aggies had a very rough first half offensively until Sam Merrill led them on the run. They had a stretch midway through the first half where they didn’t score a field goal for over 13 minutes.

San Diego State didn’t shoot the ball well either in the first half but went on an 11-0 run during a stretch where Utah State went over 5 minutes without scoring. That run by the Aztecs inflated to 22-4 before the Aggies ended the first half on a 10-2 run with Merrill scoring 7 of those 10 points.

The Aztecs had a 29-21 lead at the halftime break. Utah State came out of the locker room motivated and shot 56 percent from the field and 6-10 from beyond the arc. They outscored San Diego State 38-27 in the second half.

SDSU shot just 36 percent in the second half on 9 made field goals and went 1-8 from the three-point line.

Malachi Flynn led the Aztecs with 16 points on just 6-20 field goal shooting and 2-7 from the perimeter.

Automatic NCAA Tournament Bid

By winning the conference tournament, the Utah State Aggies received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Before the championship game against San Diego State, Utah State was on the bubble. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the Aggies were among the first four teams to miss out on the tournament.

Now that they won the conference tournament, the next eight days will be nice for Utah State without having to worry whether or not their resume was enough to get into the NCAA Tournament.

After the win over the Aztecs, Lunardi has Utah State out of the bubble conversation and one less team currently on the bubble will miss out on the tournament because the Aggies took one of those spots.

Utah State improved their record to 26-8 overall. They will make their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010-11. Selection Sunday will be on March 15 at 4 p.m. on CBS.

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