It is the first time the Aggies have won a conference championship since 2011 when USU posted a 77-69 victory over Boise State in the WAC. The Aggies are now 9-6 all-time in conference tournament title games, and 16-4 in conference tournaments as the No. 2 seed.
Junior guard Sam Merrill, who was named the tournament MVP, led the Aggies with 24 points, including 11-for-12 at the free throw line. Freshman center Nemias Queta, who went a perfect 5-for-5 at the free throw line and was named to the all-tournament team, recorded 17 points and eight rebounds, while sophomore guard Abel Porter had 10 points.
Merrill is the ninth Aggie to be award the tournament MVP, and the first since Brockeith Pane was named the WAC Tournament MVP during the 2011 season.
The first half stayed tight with 10 lead changes and seven ties. Utah State took a five-point lead at 21-16 after a trey from Porter and free throws from Queta. After SDSU tied it up at 26-26, a Merrill free throw and layups from Merrill and junior guard Diogo Brito gave the Aggies the 30-26 edge. The Aztecs tied it up at 32-32 with 1:29 on the clock, but free throws from Merrill would give the Aggies the 34-32 advantage at the half.
Utah State broke open the second half with an opening 13-0 run to take the 47-32 lead after a pair of Queta jumpers, and a triple of threes from Merrill and redshirt freshman guard Brock Miller. The Aggies maintained the double-digit lead until Aztec free throws and a couple 3-pointers cut the lead to five at 57-52 with 2:41 to play. A Queta layup and free throws from Brito and Merrill down the stretch secured the 64-57 Aggie victory.
San Diego State was led by senior guard Devin Watson with 18 points.
USU finished the night shooting 40.4 percent (21-of-52) from the field, 26.3 percent (5-of-19) from behind the arc and 70.8 percent (17-of-24) at the free throw line. SDSU shot 33.3 percent (21-of-63) from the floor, 25.0 percent (7-of-28) from behind the 3-point line and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) at the free throw line.
With the victory, Utah State earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies will find out their seed and matchup on Selection Sunday at 4 p.m. (MT), on March 17. The selection show will be televised by CBS.
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