Las Vegas, NV. – Utah State won its first Mountain West conference championship with a 64-57 win over San Diego State (21-13) before 8,969 fans at the Thomas and Mack Center. Tournament MVP Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 24 points while 6-11 freshman center Neemias Queta added 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Devin Watson led the Aztecs with 18 points, connecting on 5-of-12 three-pointers.
Utah State (28-6) pulled away from a 34-32 halftime lead by scoring the first 13 points of the second half. San Diego State rallied within five points at 60-55 in the final minute but Merrill closed the game at the free throw line. Despite scoring 24 points Merrill had an off-game shooting, making only one of his nine three point attempts. He made up for that at the free throw line, connecting on 11 of his 12 attempts and added six rebounds. Queta, who is from Portugal, was the Mountain West defensive player of the year and has shown vast improvement from the start of the season. He’s long and skilled and has good shot blocking instincts. He had a nice, quick block near the end of the game and even threw an excellent pass inside that resulted in an Aggie bucket. He’s someone to keep an eye on for the future.
San Diego State’s 6-10 Jalen McDaniels, an NBA prospect, fought foul trouble most of the night after picking up two first half fouls. He eventually fouled out with 5:57 remaining after scoring eight points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots in 24 minutes of action. While it wasn’t his best effort, McDaniels was still named to the All-Tournament team.
The Aztecs lost the game early in the second half as they went cold from the field, missing on their first six three-point attempts. They ended the half shooting only 27 percent from the field including 3-of-17 from distance. The Aggies weren’t much better at 39 percent but Brock Miller did hit two three-pointers and they added nine made free throws, seven more than the Aztecs.