CONWAY, S. C. – The Aggies are Myrtle Beach Invitational Champions after their 73 to 70 victory over Oklahoma. It’s the first program victory over the Sooners and the second pre-season tournament championship for the Aggies in three years.
“We said we wanted to come down here and play for a championship and we did. And we put our best foot forward and just went for it. And we were able to kinda outlast them right there at the end,” head coach Ryan Odom said.
Forward Justin Bean led the way for the Aggies with 24 points, 19 rebounds and three assists. Bean scored the last three points hitting three of four free throws to boost the Aggies past the Sooners. Bean set the Myrtle Beach Invitational record for rebounds with 39 in three games on his way to tournament MVP honors.
“At this point, being a senior and just having so much respect and love for our guys and knowing how much this meant to them, I’m definitely gonna take it in and enjoy it and then it’s back to work,” Bean said.
The victory was especially meaningful to the Oklahoma native Bean who grew up near the University of Oklahoma campus.
“I’ve been a Sooners fan just growing up my whole life. I grew up 10 minutes from campus. So this one definitely meant a lot for me, and to have my family there and watching in the stands. I remember my brothers and I would always play, you know, act like we were the OU players,” Bean said.
Utah State went on an early 13-3 run to go up 19 to 14 with 11:06 in the first half. The Aggies had a four-minute scoring drought which allowed Oklahoma to come back. The teams traded baskets the rest of the half leading to a slim Utah State lead at halftime, 32 to 30.
The Sooners took control after the break building up a seven-point lead in seven minutes, outscoring the Aggies 18 to 11. Oklahoma held onto their lead until there was 1:43 left in the game. Utah State put together a 12-2 run to retake the lead 67 to 66. Guard Brock Miller came in clutch for the Aggies recording eight of those points on a layup and two impressive 3-pointers.
“There were times…where we didn’t execute, we were a little flustered I thought. Especially in the first half and during a stretch in the second half…we just didn’t take care of the ball and just made a lot of mistakes. But during that last four minutes, I thought we really did come together and we trusted each other and that’s something we’ve just done since day one in practice and just executed that,” Bean said.
Utah State led the rest of the game with Bean hitting three free throws and Jones fouling Jordan Goldwire, who missed his only one-and-one free throw, to end the game with a three-point victory margin for the Aggies.
Miller finished with 16 points and a rebound. He hit four 3-pointers on 10 attempts, including the two huge back-to-back threes to put the Aggies up by four.
Forward Brandon Horvath exited the game with less than 90 seconds to play after his right ankle was stepped on. Horvath was a solid contributor for the Aggies finishing with 13 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Guard Rylan Jones racked up a team-leading five assists as he played his way through injury. He got beat up throughout the tournament, including a face-plant on Friday. Early in the second half, Jones exited the game after colliding with Jalen Hill and then slamming into the scorers’ table. He landed on his right shoulder and a trainer helped him off the court. Jones hit the table with enough force that a screen panel went out during the collision. He returned to play after a short 90-second break and finished with the second-most minutes played for the Aggies.
“He understands he’s gonna take some blows,” Odom said. “His willingness to compete for the ball in those moments says everything, because he loves his teammates. He wants to win…I’m just glad that he’s on our team.”
Gaurd RJ Eytle-Rock is starting to find his stride for Utah State. He put up double-digit points for the first time as an Aggie. Eytle-Rock finished with 10 points, a rebound and two assists.
Utah State heads home with a trophy and a 4-1 record to host UT Arlington (1-4) on Nov. 27.