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Ashworth, Aggies shoot past McEwen, Weber State

Weber State and Utah State play a basketball game on Dec. 15, 2021 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah.

Weber State and Utah State play a basketball game on Dec. 15, 2021 at the Dee Events Center in Ogden, Utah. (Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — On a night when Utah State's leading scorer never got his shot to fall, the Aggies offense had its best game of the season Wednesday.

Senior forward Justin Bean, who entered the game averaging 21.2 points per game, finished with just 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting and left the game early with a sprained ankle.

The Aggies backcourt, however, exploded in his absence. Sophomore Steven Ashworth had a career-high 27 points, senior Brock Miller added 20 points and Utah State cruised to a 95-80 road win over Weber State.

It was the Aggies' first true road win of the season and improve to 7-3 on the year; the Wildcats fell to 9-2.

"This particular game we knew was going to be a war up and down the court," Utah State head coach Ryan Odom said. "I thought our guys did a great job, certainly offensively in the first half of giving us a little bit of cushion there."

Both sides had the hot hand from beyond the arc, particularly in the first half. Utah State, which has been inconsistent from 3-point range this season, hit a season-high 15 triples on 30 attempts; Ashworth hit seven of them and Miller had four, while RJ Etyle-Rock had three.

Weber State was 9 of 25 from beyond the arc, with former Aggie Koby McEwen hitting four of them en route to a team-high 26 points.

For the game, Utah State shot 52% from the field and had three players score 20 or more points. Weber State shot 42% from the field and had four players in double digits.

With such a balanced effort from the Aggies offensively, the Wildcats had nobody to hone in on and struggled to contain the attack. Utah State's ball movement created wide-open shots from the perimeter. Utah State also found success penetrating to the basket and finding forward Brandon Horvath around the rim; he finished 8 of 16 from the field for 20 points.

"I mean, that's basketball, right? You want to make sure that you have space, ample space to work with." Odom said. "You want to make sure that you're moving it and forcing the defense to shift, and then attacking when it's there and reading and being able to play on balance."

Much of the game was a battle between Ashworth and McEwen. The two guarded each other and got shots to fall at the end of the first half to lead their teams, with the Aggies controlling a 59-44 lead at the break.

With four minutes to play in the first half, Ashworth hit a 3-pointer to give Utah State a 44-30 lead and McEwen responded with a jumper. Ashworth hit another 3-pointer, and McEwen capped off the back-and-forth play with a 3-pointer of his own to cut the lead to 47-35.

"I think tonight was just one of those circumstances where I was open and I was feeling it," Ashworth said. "And you know, quite honestly, I think there was a little personal competition going where I didn't want to be showing up. So I think that kind of helped spark the fire of that."

"Wow, what a great player," Odom said of McEwen, the former Aggie. "I said to him at the end of the handshake, you know, we're really proud of them and we wish him well for this upcoming season. ... He's really a tough guard. He can make hard shots. He's physical and he's a winning player."

In the second half, both sides stepped it up defensively and held each other to 39 points apiece.

"In the second half, it was about playing a little bit better defense," Odom said. "We challenged the guys at halftime to not give them as many easy looks and forced them to get a little bit later in the clock and help a little bit more and know the personnel a little bit better. And I think our guys did that."

Ashworth stayed hot, though, and put up 11 points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Aggies to victory.

Utah State now travels to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to face Iowa Saturday; Weber State gears up for another big in-state test at home against BYU.

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