Taylor Funk’s Season-High Leads Utah State To Resume-Building Win

Mar 10, 2023, 12:19 AM | Updated: 11:55 am

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Taylor Funk scored 19 of his game-high 32 points in the opening eight minutes, leading Utah State to a 91-76 win over New Mexico. Utah State advances to take on Boise State in the Mountain West semifinals.

#3 Utah State (25-7, 14-5) took on the #6 New Mexico (22-11, 9-11) in the Mountain West quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9.

The Aggies entered the 2023 Mountain West Championships on a five-game winning streak, playing some of their best basketball of the season. USU soundly defeated New Mexico in their only matchup this season, prevailing 84-73 on February 1.

New Mexico weathered Wyoming’s first-half push before pulling away late in an 87-76 first-round victory to reach the quarterfinal round.

RELATED: Mountain West Regular Season Honors Announced, Steven Ashworth Named To First-Team

Steven Ashworth finished with 22 points as he and Funk combined to make 10-of-17 threes. Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year Dan Akin added 17 points and Max Shulga had 12.

Four Lobos reached double figures with Jamal Mashburn Jr. leading the way with 20 points on 25 shot attempts.

First Half

After scoring a season-high 24 points in their last game, Taylor Funk came out hot. The graduate senior scored the Aggies first 16 points as USU took an early lead.

Funk started the game 5-of-6 from the field with four shots from deep. Coming into the tournament, he had scored 16 or more points in a game 11 times out of 30 games played.

Jamal Mashburn Jr answered Funk’s fantastic start, torturing Utah State’s defense with a mid-range clinic. Mashburn Jr. scored ten points in the opening minutes to keep the Lobos close.

Steven Ashworth, USU’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game, took over scoring responsibilities after Funk hit the bench for a breather. Ashworth knocked down back-to-back threes to keep the momentum rolling.

USU held a 33-23 lead with 6:54 left in the half.

RELATED: Men’s Mountain West Tournament Bracket, Schedule Released For 2023 Season

Later in the period, a loose ball scramble ended when Trevin Dorius found Dan Akin for a rim-rocking dunk.

Utah State led 44-33 at the half.

Three Aggies reached double figures with Funk’s 21 leading the way. Ashworth added 11 with Akin scoring ten off the bench. Mashburn Jr. and Udeze led New Mexico with ten points apiece.

Second Half

Dorius stepped into a passing lane for a steal, then found Max Shulga streaking to the basket for a dunk to open the second half.

Jaelen House, the Mountain West steals leader, answered the bell. House’s increased intensity resulted in four quick points, a steal and a Sean Bairstow offensive foul as New Mexico attempted to mount a comeback.

RELATED: Utah State Basketball Trio Receives Recognition From Mountain West Media

The Lobos got within six at 49-43 but a 6-0 USU run put them back in front by double digits.

The run increased to to 12-2 with Ashworth and Bairstow each getting layups. Utah State took advantage of four steals in the first seven minutes of the half, turning them into nine points.

Ashworth went to the bench with his fourth foul with 9:28 left as Utah State led 71-54. It was his first rest of the night after playing 39 minutes and 39 seconds against Boise State.

Foul trouble began to plague the USU after Bairstow picked up his fourth foul and Akin his third moments later. Despite being down by 12 points, New Mexico continued to fight.

Josiah Allick got free for a dunk that capped an 8-0 run, cutting the lead to 75-65 with 6:47 left.

With the Lobos defense hounding Shulga as Ashworth continued to sit, the Aggies offense slowed. Four Shulga free throws helped USU hold onto the lead despite just one field goal in more than six minutes down the stretch.

The Aggies advanced to the MW semifinals against Boise State with a 91-76 win.

Up Next

#3 Utah State advances to face #2 Boise State (24-8, 14-5) on Friday, March 10. Tip-off for this MW semifinal matchup is scheduled for 10 p.m. (MT).

#1 San Diego State takes on #5 San Jose State in the other semifinal matchup. Tip-off for this game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (MT).

The 2023 Mountain West Championships take place at the Thomas & Mack Center. The title game is scheduled to tip off at 2 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, March 11.

Every Utah State basketball game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard on the call.

Coverage of Utah State University Athletics from KSL Sports can be found here. 

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Taylor Funk’s Season-High Leads Utah State To Resume-Building Win