Senior forward Quinn Taylor added 18 points and six rebounds for the Aggies (25-6, 15-3 MW), who secured their 17th conference championship and first since joining the Mountain West. Utah State’s last conference title came during the 2010-11 season, when it was a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Utah State led by as many as 12 in the second half against the Rams (12-18, 7-10 MW), but found themselves training 86-84 with 59 seconds left in regulation following a jumper by Nico Carvacho, who was one of five CSU players to finish in double figures with 19 points.
However, Merrill knotted the game at 86-apiece when he calmly sank a pair of free throws with just 19 seconds left. The game went to overtime after the Rams’ J.D. Paige missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won it for the home team.
In the extra session, freshman center Neemias Queta converted a layup to give Utah State a 90-88 lead with 3:19 to go. Merrill then knocked down back-to-back jumpers less than a minute apart to make it 94-88.
Queta finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies, while junior guard Diogo Brito and redshirt-freshman forward Justin Bean added 10 points apiece off the bench for Utah State.
Merrill also grabbed eight boards to help the Aggies outrebound the Rams 35-30. The native of Bountiful, Utah, also dished out a team-high-tying six assists, along with junior guard Abel Porter.
Paige led Colorado State with 29 points and Kris Martin scored 20, while Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore each had 12.
Utah State shot a season-high 60.0 percent on the night (39-of-65), including 37.5 percent from 3-point range (6-of-16), and 64.0 percent from the free throw line (16-of-25). Conversely, the Rams shot 50.0 percent from the field (32-of-64), including 46.2 percent from long range (12-of-26), and 76.9 percent from the charity stripe (20-of-26).
The Aggies ended the regular season by winning their final seven games and 14 of their last 15 contests. They will now turn their attention to the Mountain West Championships, which will be held March 13-16 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
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