LOGAN — Sam Merrill had 19 points and Quinn Taylor finished with a double-double to lift Utah State past San Diego State in a 70-54 win Tuesday night.
The win snapped a five-game winning streak by San Diego State (18-10, 10-5) and is the first time Utah State (23-6, 13-3) has claimed a win over the Aztecs since joining the Mountain West Conference.
The Aztecs jumped out on a 6-2 run to open up the game before the Aggies went on a 16-3 run to take their first lead of the game. Both teams struggled to hit shots for the remainder of the half, with neither team shooting better than 40 percent from the field.
Still, the Aggies held a 10-point lead at the half behind Merrill and Taylor's 8 points apiece at the break. Taylor would finish the game with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
In the second half, the Aggies turned up the scoring and shot 46.9 percent from the field to eventually push the lead up to 21 with just under four minutes to play.
The Aggies outscored the Aztecs 39-33 in the second half en route to the team's 23rd win of the season, which is the most wins in a season for the program since Utah State won 30 games in the 2010-11 season.
That 2010-11 season is also the last time the Aggies have made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the second round. But with Tuesday's win, the Aggies could find themselves in the postseason tournament for the first time in nearly a decade.
The win over the Aztecs is just one step in the right direction, but a positive step nonetheless for a program considered to be a "bubble team" by the various tournament prognosticators. The win also sets a program record for Smith, who now holds the mark for the most wins in his first season in Logan.
"It's a great victory for us," Aggies head coach Craig Smith told media. "First, I want to credit all the Aggie fans for coming out tonight and supporting us. It was almost a sellout, and their presence was felt, no question about it. The energy is so contagious and willed our guys. It's amazing the impact that a crowd like that has on winning. It can be very daunting for an opponent."
"Tonight was a fun night," Taylor added. "It was great to play out in the Spectrum in front of basically a sold-out crowd. Any time you can get that fan support, it really boosts us. I feel like we came out with an edge and played 40 minutes with that."
Utah State will now welcome No. 12 Nevada to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum at 6:30 p.m. MST Saturday.