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July 31, 2021

Utah State finishes off home slate with a victory over Wyoming

LOGAN — There are few things Utah State coach Craig Smith likes more than watching his team play in March. That tends to happen when you win a lot.

Now in his third season leading the Aggies, Smith has lost just once in the famed college basketball month, and that didn’t change on Thursday.

The Aggies (17-7; 14-4) won their third straight game, defeating Wyoming 72-59 in their home finale.

Justin Bean scored 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Nemias Queta had 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Aggies to the win. It was the third straight time the duo have both posted double-doubles.

“Exciting night in the Spectrum. It’s hard to believe this is our last night in the Spectrum. We had five weeks where we didn’t play at home, it’s crazy that it’s over right now,” Smith said. “Happy to be able to go out on a good note. Wyoming is a very talented team, well-coached. They put you in a lot of tough positions and we saw that in the first half.”

The Aggies led by just 5 after the half, and that’s where the advantage was at 11:46 when the home team went on a late run to secure the victory. And on Senior Night, it was a freshman that led that run.

Steven Ashworth scored 8 of his 13 points during a crucial 22-11 surge that lasted nearly 10 minutes. Ashworth was 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the game and it was the deep ball that was the catalyst to the late run.

Max Shulga hit back-to-back triples late in the second half and as a team the Aggies were 4-of-5 from 3-point range during the critical stretch. They were 2-of-15 during the rest of the game, as it was clear the team missed veteran Brock Miller, who was out for the contest.

“It was definitely a different game — a game that we didn’t anticipate,” Ashworth said. “They came out with a strategy that we hadn’t seen yet this season, so we had to make adjustments.”

Utah State finished its home slate 10-2, with losses only to Colorado State and BYU — two teams that are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament. USU is seen as one of the last teams currently just outside the 68-team field.

“Happy to get the W. We don’t have much time to enjoy this, we’ll enjoy it till midnight and hop on a plane tomorrow, get ready to play another opponent,” Smith said. “That will be different, playing a different opponent two games in three days. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think our guys will be very focused.”

USU will finish off the regular season on Saturday against Fresno State (9 p.m., FS1). The Aggies are currently third in the Mountain West Conference, but still could climb to the No. 2 seed for the MWC tournament. The Aggies would need Colorado State to lose to Nevada on Friday and then end their season with a victory over the Bulldogs.

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