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LAS VEGAS — Koby McEwen had just one field goal in the first half before the Aggies had possession in the final seconds, down three.
With one flick of the wrist, he got going.
McEwen scored 22 of his freshman school-record 27 points in the second half to help Utah State pull away from San Jose State 90-64 in the Mountain West Tournament opener for both teams Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
"In the first half, I was just trying to get my teammates involved," said McEwen, who also had four assists and four rebounds. "I wasn't really taking any shots. That wasn't what I was supposed to do. I was just trying to make the right play at the right time.
"I didn't really come out saying I was going to start shooting. It just felt right. My instincts took over, and usually when I do that, good things happen."
McEwen was just 1-of-2 from the field before knocking down a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to take a 31-31 tie into the locker room. He finished 9-of-12 from the field, including 5-of-5 from 3-point range, and scored 14 of 20 points as the Aggies' used their second 11-0 run of the game to pull away for good.
McEwen's 27 points set a school record for most points by a freshman in a postseason game, beating out Jaycee Carroll's 22 points scored against Pacific in the championship game of the 2005 Big West Tournament. McEwen's mark is also second all-time in most single-game postseason points, trailing only Tony Brown's 29 in the semifinals of the 2002 Big West tourney.
"We started the game a little tight and cautious. … In the second half, I thought we played with a lot more force and a lot more thrust," Utah State coach Tim Duryea said. "We got out in transition, and made simple easy plays that resulted in high-quality shots."
Jalen Moore added 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Utah State (14-16), and Sam Merrill and Quinn Taylor each scored 11 for the Aggies.
"I've just got to keep playing my game. I just went out, got more aggressive, and I knew something had to fall eventually," said Moore, who scored in double figures for the 29th game of his senior season and 90th time in his career. "They ended up falling, and I just tried to help my team in other ways.
"But Koby definitely fueled the fire for our team, coming out hot. Me and Sam definitely fed off that, and from there on out, we were just playing good ball."
San Jose State (14-16) cut the lead to 55-51 on Isaac Thornton's layup with 10:37 left in the game. But Julion Pearre hit a three to spark an 18-0 run, and Moore threw down a vicious dunk during the run that ran out to 21-3 to put the game away for good.
"It was a fun play; that's always fun to do," Moore said. "But that's a huge play in basketball, whenever you get a dunk like that.
"From there on out, we were just playing hard and I felt like we were the tougher team in the second half, and we were able to pull away from them."
Thornton finished with 10 points and two blocks, and Ryan Welage had 14 points and four rebounds as the ninth-seeded Spartans outrebounded the Aggies 33-31.
But McEwen, Moore and the Aggies could not be stopped from the field, scoring 59 points on 63.3 percent shooting to roll to the win.
"Even though he didn't score in the first half, he made a lot of plays. We didn't convert them all, but I thought he was seeing the floor really well," Duryea said of McEwen. "His shot at the end of the half was big, not only for him but for our team. We were really struggling, didn't have much flow, and to go into the locker room tied was mentally huge for us."