CONWAY, S. C. – Utah State will play for the Myrtle Beach Invitational Championship after blowing out New Mexico State, 85-58. Utah State played 50 minutes of basketball the day before but they didn’t show it. The Aggies were able to out-gun and outrun New Mexico State by building a large lead early in the game and utilizing bench players to give rest to their starters.
Guard Rylan Jones led USU in scoring with 19 points. He also picked up four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jones looked a lot more confident in this game than he has in the first three. He didn’t hesitate to shoot from beyond the arc, swishing five 3-pointers on six shots, but also continued his strong defense this season on the other side of the court.
New Mexico State tried to limit forward Justin Bean on offense, but he still significantly helped the Aggies. Bean finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists. He also led the team in plus/minus with 33. Jones credits Bean with creating chances for Utah State on offense.
“They tried to take away Bean, but he was just facilitating and we were making our shots,” Jones said.
Utah State cruised to a huge halftime lead of 41 to 16. They did this on the backs of Bean and Jones. Bean picked up 13 points in the first half and Jones had 11 points with three 3-pointers including a couple from NBA range. The Aggies collectively shot 57.7% from the field and 37.5% from behind the arc. They didn’t let their foot off the gas pedal the rest of the game as Utah State continued to wallop the Aggies from New Mexico.
In the second half, Utah State relied on 3-pointers to grow their lead. The Aggies went 8-13 from downtown in the second half, including a stretch where Jones, forward Brandon Horvath and guard Steven Ashworth combined for 15 points in five possessions.
Utah State played stout defense the entire game, allowing only 10 points in the paint during the contest. New Mexico State was forced to take longer-range, contested shots and finished shooting 35.1% from the field.
“Our game plan was to keep them in front of us, our chest in front of their chest, and make them shoot over us. And we did that from the tip. We just made them shoot hard shots, contested shots and they made some of them and that’s what’ll happen, but as long as you can make them shoot more hard shots than good shot you have a good chance of winning,” Jones said.
Utah State forced 13 turnovers and recorded six points off of them. The Aggies also outrebounded New Mexico State 36 to 27.
“I thought our guys made the right decisions throughout the game to give ourselves the best chance to contest the shot but also rebound and be in position to rebound,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
With Utah State’s large lead, the bench saw 75 combined minutes led by forward Zee Hamoda, the first NCAA men’s basketball player from Bahrain, and guard Max Shulga. Hamoda didn’t score but grabbed three rebounds, recorded two assists and made two blocks. Shulga recorded a career-high 11 points, three rebounds, one assist and two steals in the game. He also drew a charge.
“It’s about making the pieces fit. And we’ve got to continue to try to cultivate the bench the best we can. Today was an opportunity for that,” Odom said. “Coming off a (double) overtime game, we knew we were gonna have to sub pretty early in the game to be able to make sure our guys were fresh throughout. And then the game obviously played out the way that it did so we were able to get some guys some more minutes.”
Utah State is back in action on Nov. 21 in the final of the Myrtle Beach Invitational. They will play the winner of the Oklahoma and Indiana State game.