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LOGAN, Utah — There is a reason Utah State freshman guard Koby McEwen is leading all Mountain West Conference freshmen in scoring. Wednesday night against league-leading Nevada he showed what it was.
"A freshman that gets 26 against Nevada and you don't even talk about him, that's probably taking him for granted a little bit," said USU head coach Tim Duryea. "But 26 points, 12 shots, turned it over a couple times ... but man, makes tough shots, makes big shots."
McEwen scored eight of the final nine points for USU and finished with a game-high 26 to help the Aggies upend the Wolfpack, 74-57, at the Spectrum in Logan.
"We really guarded them," McEwen said. "Sam (Merrill) did a good job containing the leading scorer in the league to two points. That's probably the biggest reason we won the game."
Coming in to Wednesday night's contest, Nevada guard Marcus Marshall was averaging 22.4 points per game in MWC play, tops in the league. USU freshman guard Sam Merrill held Marshall to just two points on 1-of-12 shooting, including 0 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line.
"The best defensive performance since I took over," Duryea said. "Considering the competition, considering the importance of the game in terms of our path and trying to dig ourselves out of a hole that we've put ourselves in, I thought it was really A-plus defensive performance for 40 minutes."
Merrill, who was coming off a bout with bronchitis, played 36 minutes and chipped in on the offensive side with 13 points. Merrill hit what Duryea thought was the biggest shot of the game. With the shot clock winding down, Merrill hit a stepback 3-pointer to give the Aggies a 59-49 lead with 4:01 to play.
"The job Sam Merrill did on Marcus Marshall, I didn't think was possible," Duryea said. "I was hoping for 12 or 13 points ... but Sam and Shane (Rector) did a phenomenal job."
From that point on, USU hit free throws and McEwen sealed the deal with a two-handed dunk that broke the Nevada press and put the exclamation point on a big win for the Aggies.
"I see a guy that always has his foot on the pedal, that is always in attack mode," Duryea said. "I've told him and Sam both, 'Don't worry about me in terms of being aggressive.' I don't care if those two guys make mistakes being aggressive because they're going to learn how to play, what plays they can make by being aggressive, and the quicker they can learn, the better."
USU senior Jalen Moore finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds. It is the 34th-straight game Moore has finished in double digits. Alex Dargenton finished with 13 rebounds as the Aggies out-rebounded the Wolfpack, 50-36.
With the win, USU improves to 10-11 overall and 4-6 in MWC play. Nevada drops to 18-5 overall and 7-3 in the MWC.
Next up for USU is a two-game road trip at Boise State on Saturday and then at Colorado State on Tuesday. Duryea is hoping his team will pick up a road win, as the Aggies are winless on the road in conference play.
Kyle McDonald is sports fan who loves the Chicago Cubs and the Utah Valley University Wolverines. He is a communication major at UVU and will graduate in the spring of 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @kylesportsbias