LOGAN, Utah — The Aggies snapped their four-game losing streak by routing New Mexico, 81 to 56. It was Utah State’s first win in 17 days.
“First and foremost, it’s great to get a win for our guys,” head coach Ryan Odom said. “We had a tough stretch. Losing four in a row is really hard for our guys.”
After missing nearly two months with a back injury, guard Brock Miller saw action tonight. He scored three points and grabbed a rebound in 12 minutes of play. Miller made a 3-pointer with 14:13 left in the game and the Spectrum erupted in celebration.
“That was unbelievable,” Miller said. “I’m really humbled with just the opportunity that I’ve been given to play. When it’s taken away from you a little bit from bad health, you realize how great it is to be out there.”
The Aggies had an incredible start to the game. After surrendering a basket, Utah State went on a 12-0 run in just over two minutes to take a 12-2 lead with 16:29 remaining in the first half. The Aggies held the lead for the rest of the game and led by double digits the final 36 minutes of the game.
“It was a great start,” Odom said. “The shots were going in, but I think it was more about our guys’ willingness to move their bodies. We were getting stops and now all of a sudden we’re up the court. We’re best when we’re playing that way.”
The Aggies have had some trouble closing out games this season but they took care of business Tuesday night. The lowest Utah State’s lead went in the second half, after starting with a 6-0 run, was 19. They got stops, traded baskets and answered Lobo runs with runs of their own.
“It was good to be able to just close that gap and not let them get back in the game and just really take control in the second half,” USU forward Justin Bean said. “Finishing games has been an emphasis that we need to do a better job at. Obviously, this wasn’t too close, but in the future, we need to continue to have that mindset.”
Utah State’s defense played a big role in the win. They were able to force eight turnovers, which resulted in 11 points, and had five blocks.
“It was a good effort from everybody,” Bean said. “Like I said, when we get defensive stops and we’re playing good defense…our offense definitely feeds off that. That is what I thought was a huge key to knocking down those shots.”
The Aggies were also able to keep Lobo guards Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Jaelen House to well below their scoring season averages. Combined, they totaled 15 points on 23 shot attempts.
“It’s not easy,” Odom said. “That’s what we had hoped for. We had hoped to be able to put them in some situations that were a little bit more hard. I think when they did get toward the rim, and get close in there on us, our bigs did a nice job on most occasions of stepping over there, and then our other guys kind of positioned themselves where they didn’t have easy execution baskets.”
Forward Justin Bean was also a large factor in the win. He put up his 17th double-double of the season and was five assists away from a triple-double. Bean finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
After two rough road losses, the Aggies were glad to return to the Spectrum. Bean credited the crowd and his team’s attitude with the win.
“Being back home definitely helps. It’s hard to not get a lot of energy when you’re playing in the Spectrum as the home team,” Bean said. “More than anything we just didn’t get complacent. We didn’t look down on ourselves after those four losses. We know what we’re capable of and win or lose, we know we can play with anyone in this league.”
Forward Brandon Horvath also put together a nice performance. He had 19 points, three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes.
Miller is a senior this season and will soon be a father. If this season ends up being Miller’s last, he has already made it obvious how grateful he is to have played for the Aggies.
“I love everything about Utah State and what they bring and the fans, everyone who comes out, the support of my teammates and allowing me to hit that shot,” Miller said.
Odom recognized the contribution Miller’s return made to the team’s morale.
“Obviously, tonight having Brock back was huge. Just him being out there, warming up,” Odom said. “I thought he did really well. He just provides an intensity, a leadership that is so important for any team. He means a ton to us. I think you saw the reaction of all of his teammates and coaches, how excited everybody was just to see him get back in there, regardless of whether he made a shot or didn’t. That didn’t really matter. Just his presence was so important.”
Looking forward, the Aggies have two more games in the regular season. Odom recognizes that for any chance at a deep conference tournament run, his team needs to continue to elevate their play.
“We still have a ways to go. We have to continue to improve obviously and we have a really good team coming in here Saturday,” Odom said.
The win puts Utah States record at 16-13. They are currently in seventh place in the Mountain West with a record of 7-9. The next contest for the Aggies will be their final home game of the season. Utah State will celebrate their seniors as they host Colorado State on Saturday night.