Mountain West Conference

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No. 17 Utah State routs Denver

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LOGAN, Utah — Brock Miller scored a career-high 27 points and No. 17 Utah State cruised to a 97-56 victory over Denver on Tuesday night.

Alphonso Anderson added 15 points and Sam Merrill had 14. Justin Bean led the Aggies with 15 rebounds.

The Aggies (3-0) jumped out to an 18-5 lead over the first five minutes. Miller scored Utah State’s first eight points, hitting two 3s and a jumper.

During the opening nine minutes of the game, the Aggies were especially stingy on defense. After David Nzekwesi scored Denver’s first three points of the game on a three-point play, Utah State allowed just four points over the next eight minutes. Over that time, the Aggies went on a 28-4 run. Utah State’s defense forced Denver to 36% shooting from the field and just 13% from beyond the arc. The Aggies also forced six turnovers in the first half.

Utah State’s defense was equally as good after the halftime break, holding Denver to just five points in the first seven minutes of the final half.

Ade Murkey led Denver (1-2) with 14 points.

POLL WATCH: Utah State remained at the No. 17 spot in the Associated Press poll after starting the season 2-0 with an 81-73 win against Montana State to open the season and an 89-34 route against in-state school Weber State. The No. 17 ranking the third-highest AP ranking in school history and the Aggies’ highest ranking since the 1970-71 season.

BIG PICTURE

Utah State: The Aggies improve to 3-0 on the season with another win at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Utah State again played without sophomore center Neemias Queta as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Starting in his place was Kuba Karwowski.

Denver: The Pioneers, coming off of a 74-62 win against WAC school Utah Valley University, fell to 1-2 on the season. Utah State held Denver to season lows in points scored, field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

UP NEXT

Utah State: The Aggies continue a seven-game homestand to open the season, taking on North Carolina A&T at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Friday.

Denver: The Pioneers head back home to play Western Colorado on Saturday at the Hamilton Gymnasium.

Merrill scores 28, No. 17 Utah State beats Montana State

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LOGAN, Utah — Sam Merrill scored 28 points and No. 17 Utah State beat Montana State 81-73 Tuesday night in the season opener for both teams.

Alphonso Anderson and Justin Bean each added 13 points for the Aggies. Utah State overcame 37.7% shooting from the field to hold off the Bobcats by getting to the line. The Aggies went 35 of 45 from the free-throw line.

Harald Frey led Montana State with 34 points on 10-of-20 shooting. The Bobcats had 15 turnovers, leading to 14 points for Utah State.

Anderson’s steal and layup helped spark a decisive 10-0 run that gave Utah State a 74-66 lead with 1:48 remaining. Anderson capped the spurt with two free throws.

Montana State cut it to three on a three-point play from Finn Fleute. Brock Miller answered with a corner 3 with 30 seconds left.

Diogo Brito buried a corner 3 to spark a 12-5 run that helped Utah State carve out a 22-15 lead. The Aggies missed 10 of their first 14 shots before the basket but hit 4 of 5 during the run.

Utah State could not find any consistency on offense before halftime. The Aggies missed their final eight shots of the first half and went almost seven minutes without a basket.

It opened the door for Montana State to rally.

Frey pulled the Bobcats within one when he converted a three-point play to cut Utah State’s lead to 35-34 with 40.2 seconds remaining in the half. The senior guard kept making big plays well into the second half. He made three straight 3-pointers and then followed with a three-point play to help Montana State pull within a point again at 49-48.

The Bobcats finally took a 55-54 lead on Michael Paulo’s layup with 10:09 left.

BIG PICTURE

Montana State: The Bobcats successfully attacked on the perimeter for the better part of 40 minutes to give themselves a chance at pulling an upset. Montana State shot 9 of 19 from the perimeter. Frey accounted for six of those outside baskets.

Utah State: Sophomore center Neemias Queta, who is still rehabbing a knee injury he suffered in July, did not play for the Aggies. Kuba Karwowski filled in and provided one of the game’s biggest defensive highlights when he blocked three straight shots over the final three seconds before halftime.

UP NEXT

Montana State hosts Rocky Mountain College, an NAIA school, on Saturday.

Utah State hosts in-state rival Weber State on Friday.

San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels turning pro

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San Diego State redshirt sophomore Jalen McDaniels is leaving school to turn pro, the school announced in a release on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-10 McDaniels could get first-round NBA Draft consideration as he provides unique size and skill for a wing forward. Putting up 15.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this past season, McDaniels was one of the most productive players in the Mountain West.

McDaniels also improved his three-point shooting percentage to 32 percent from 21 percent as a freshman as his perimeter shooting will be one of the main focuses for his draft stock.

“I want to thank San Diego State University, particularly the coaching staff, my teammates and our amazing fans, for guiding and supporting me both on and off the court,” McDaniels said in the release. “These past three seasons I have matured as a person and a basketball player. I cherish the memories I have made with my teammates and the relationships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

San Diego State is still recruiting Jalen’s younger brother, Jaden, as the five-star prospect in the Class of 2019 has the Aztecs in his top five. It’s hard to say if Jalen’s pro decision will impact Jaden’s college decision, except we now know the brothers won’t play together in college.

San Diego State upsets No. 6 Nevada

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San Diego State used a sound defensive effort and balanced scoring to pull off Wednesday night’s biggest upset with a 65-57 Mountain West home win over No. 6 Nevada.

The Aztecs (17-9, 9-4) have now won seven of their last eight games, as the league’s hottest team earned their best win of the season. Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley each scored 15 points for San Diego State while Jalen McDaniels chipped in 10 points. Defense also came through in a huge way for the Aztecs as they held the star Nevada trio of Jordan Caroline, Caleb and Cody Martin to only 33 combined points on 9-for-33 shooting.

While this is a monster win for the Aztecs, they’re not particularly close to the NCAA tournament bubble right now thanks to a mediocre profile that includes some bad missteps. San Diego State is going to be an intriguing team to follow down the stretch. They got hot late last season to play their way into the tournament with the Mountain West autobid. We’re also still weeks away from the postseason getting started and seeing if this San Diego State team is truly one to watch like they were last season.

For as good as this win is for San Diego State, the real intrigue from this outcome is what happens next with Nevada?

The Wolf Pack (24-2, 11-2) cruised to an easy start this season thanks to an unintentionally light non-conference schedule and a weak Mountain West. That’s resulted in the No. 6 ranking in the AP poll along with some strong rankings in other metric areas. But the 24-1 start and positive national acclaim hasn’t necessarily translated to positive seedings from respected bracketologists.

Many NCAA tournament projections had the Wolf Pack sitting around a No. 4 seed entering Wednesday night’s game. Now, after suffering a second Quadrant 3 loss this season, Nevada will likely be falling even further. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wolf Pack on the No. 5 or the No. 6 seed line after losing on the road to the Aztecs.

To make matters worse, Nevada still hasn’t even played a Quadrant 1 team yet. So while the Wolf Pack’s computer numbers are already suffering from the weak schedule, they’re also a complete mystery against the best competition.

The Mountain West race just got a whole lot more interesting thanks to Wednesday night’s outcomes. With Utah State’s win over New Mexico, they only rest a game behind Nevada in the league standings. The two conference leaders still have one more head-to-head clash to be played as well, with Utah State fighting hard for an at-large bid if they fall short of winning the conference tournament.

It’s doubtful we’ll see the trio of Caroline and the Martin twins all play so poorly during the same game again this season. But having that happen — even once — on Wednesday night might have just cost Nevada some valuable seeding that could really hurt them come March.

New Mexico adds talented transfer guard from Towson

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New Mexico landed one of the better available transfer guards on the market as Towson’s Zane Martin pledged to the Lobos on Friday.

The 6-foot-4 Martin was a second-team All-CAA selection last season for the Tigers as he blossomed into a big-time scorer as a sophomore. Putting up 19.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, Martin shot 45 percent from the floor and 38 percent from three-point range.

Martin will have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer regulations as he has two more seasons left of eligibility after his redshirt year.

This is a quality grab for the Lobos as Martin has a chance to develop into a solid rotation player and potential starter. Martin put in the work to go from role player to all-conference selection in one season, so it’ll be interesting to see how much his game develops during his redshirt season.

Caleb, Cody Martin’s return to Nevada makes Wolf Pack dangerous

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Nevada received some huge news late Wednesday night as Caleb and Cody Martin will return to the Wolf Pack for their senior seasons, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The twins opted to stay in the NBA draft process until the last 30 minutes before the deadline before opting to come back for their senior seasons. With the talented duo returning, Nevada now looks like one of the most intriguing teams in the country next season after the Wolf Pack return most of their Sweet 16 team.

Caleb was the more effective scorer of the two Martin twins last season as he put up 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. Although Cody didn’t match the scoring output of his brother, he became the team’s starting point guard late in the season when guard Lindsay Drew was lost with a season-ending injury.

Putting up 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, Martin is perhaps the most versatile player on the Wolf Pack entering next season. If Drew doesn’t properly recover from his injury, Cody also offers a nice insurance policy at lead guard.

Now that both Martin twins, and Jordan Caroline, are all back for next season, expectations are going to be sky-high for head coach Eric Musselman and the Wolf Pack. To put these returns in perspective, the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 had Nevada as the No. 16 team in the country without the Martin twins coming back for next season.

Now that the duo and Caroline have all returned, the Wolf Pack look like a potentially scary team — especially on offense. The program will also have additional reinforcements for next season in form of some talented transfers like Tre’Shawn Thurman, Ehab Amin and Nisre Zouzoua. When you also factor in Nevada landing five-star center and McDonald’s All-American Jordan Brown, this is a Mountain West team with Final Four aspirations for next season.

With the Martin twins and Caroline all coming back for next season, it also leaves Musselman and Nevada with an interesting scholarship conundrum. Currently, the team has 15 scholarship players who are supposed to be suiting up for them next season. The NCAA limit is 13. So, something has to give. Somebody is likely going to have to leave.

But with four starters returning, a McDonald’s All-American joining the mix and some productive transfers adding much-needed depth, this isn’t exactly a bad problem to have at this point in the offseason. After barely turning to its bench by the end of last season, Nevada now might have one of the deepest teams in the nation next season.