LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Utah State junior guard Sam Merrill scored 27 points, pacing four Aggies in double figures, but it wasn’t enough in an 87-82 loss to Arizona State in the championship game of the MGM Main Event on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Lugentz Dort poured in a game-high 33 points to help the Sun Devils (5-0) hold off the Aggies (5-1) for the Heavyweight Bracket title.
Utah State sophomore guard John Knight III finished with 13 points and gave Utah State a 47-44 lead with 15:53 remaining in the game when he scored on a layup. However, Arizona State moved back in front for good on a 3-pointer by Taeshon Cherry less than a minute later.
The Sun Devils, who shot 26-of-52 from the field (50.0 percent), including 7-of-14 from beyond the arc (7-of-14), grew their lead to as many as nine down the stretch.
Joining Merrill and Knight III in double-figure scoring for Utah State was senior forward Dwayne Brown Jr. (14) and redshirt freshman guard Brock Miller (10). The Aggies shot 25-for-56 from the field (44.6 percent), including 7-of-23 from 3-point range (30.4 percent), and 25-of-33 from the free throw line (75.8 percent).
For the sixth time this season, though, Utah State outrebounded its opponent as the Aggies grabbed five more boards (34-29) than the Sun Devils, led by freshman center Neemias Queta’s career-high-tying nine.
The Aggies scored the first six points of the game on back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore guard Crew Ainge and Miller. Utah State opened up its largest lead of the game when Merrill drained his first 3-pointer of the night to make it 16-9 with 14:03 left in the first half.
Consecutive baskets by Brown within a 54-second span gave the Aggies their final lead of the half, 28-26, before Dort took over and scored the next six points for the Sun Devils, who led 37-35 at intermission.
Utah State will return home on Wednesday, Nov. 28, when the Aggies welcome Northern Iowa to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, at 7 p.m. The game is part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.
Fans can purchase season tickets, or on a game-by-game basis. Fans can purchase tickets at the Utah State ticket office, located on the first floor of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Tickets are also available online at utahstateaggies.com/tickets
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