Sam Merrill 05

Utah State guard Sam Merrill gets fouled by Air Force forward Lavelle Scottie (12) during a game in January of this year.

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To the victor go the spoils.

No. 5 San Diego State has had a season to remember as it won the Mountain West Conference regular season title by five games. On Monday, media that cover the league released its all-conference teams and individual awards.

The Aztecs (28-1, 17-1 MW) picked up three specialty awards and had four athletes honored. Guard Malachi Flynn was the Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, while Brian Dutcher was unanimously chosen as the Coach of the Year. Flynn was on the first team, while Aztec guard Matt Mitchell was voted to the second team, and forward Yanni Wetzell made the third team. Guard K.J. Feagin was an honorable mention selection.

Utah State was also well represented as Neemias Queta was chosen for the second straight year as the Defensive Player of the Year. The sophomore center also made the second team. Last year’s Player of the Year, guard Sam Merrill, was named to the first team. Forward Justin Bean was a second team selection.

Bean also picked up a vote for Defensive Player of the Year, while Flynn and Feagin picked up two votes each for that award. Aggie guard Diogo Brito received a vote for Sixth Man of the Year.

Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens was named the Freshman of the Year, getting nine votes as Ram David Roddy and Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson each got a vote. Nevada guard Nisre Zouzoua was tabbed the Sixth Man of the Year with eight votes as UNLV’s Elijah Mitrou-Long, Boise State’s Alex Hobbs and Brito each got one.

In the Player of the Year voting, Flynn, who averaged 17.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists an outing this season, garnered nine votes. Nevada’s Jalen Harris received the other two.

The First Team was made up Flynn, Harris, Merrill, UNLV guard Bryce Hamilton and Boise State guard Justinian Jessup.

Voting was conducted independent of Mountain West oversight by media directly covering teams in all 11 league markets. In markets where more than one outlet covers a team closely, beat reporters from competing publications or outlets submitted a joint ballot, giving each market one vote.

Voters ranked players 1 through 15 for first-, second- and third-team All-Mountain West honors, with the top player getting 15 points and on down to the 15th player receiving one point.

Merrill is leading the Aggies with 18.8 points and 4.0 assists per game. Merrill, who currently has 2,114 points in his career, is just the sixth player in league history to surpass 2,000 career points. He is currently ranked fourth in the MW record books and needs 55 more points to pass former Wyoming Cowboy Brandon Ewing (2,168) for third.

Beam is averaging a double-double for the season with 12.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. Bean’s 15 double-doubles are the most in the league this season. Bean also led the MW on the offensive glass, pulling down 3.65 per game, and ranked second in defensive rebounds per game, averaging 6.65 per contest. Bean was just as active on the defensive side, as his 1.55 steals per game put him second in the MW.

Queta was the key cog in the USU defense, as he totaled 27 blocks during conference play to lead the league with 1.69 blocks per game. Queta’s numbers continued to improve throughout the year as he came back from an injury during the offseason, averaging 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in January, to 15.0 points and 9.9 rebounds in February. Queta’s blocking numbers also improved as he recorded eight during the month of January before swatting away 18 during the month of February.

The league will announce its all-conference team and individual awards on Tuesday.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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