It was another dominating performance by the Aggie men’s basketball team Friday night.
For those counting, that is six Mountain West games and six blowout wins for Utah State. The latest came at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University — the current home for New Mexico as its state deals with COVID.
For the third time this season the Aggies led from start to finish in a game. They used a 13-0 run after the teams traded buckets to begin the contest and rolled to a 82-46 victory in front of no fans.
“We are really proud of how we played in every facet,” USU head coach Craig Smith said. “I thought we really defended hard and executed our game plan defensively. I loved how we shared the ball for most of the game.”
Aggie center Neemias Queta was awarded the game ball for becoming the all-time school record holder for blocks in a career. He moved into the top spot with 4:08 left in the first half.
“We don’t do that very often, give someone the game ball, but I thought he deserved it,” Smith said. “How often do you get to witness someone become the all-time leader in something.”
The Aggies (9-3, 6-0) have now won eight straight. The Lobos (3-6, 0-6) have lost six in a row.
“We have taken care of business to this point,” Smith said. “We are excited to be at home now. We have showed some maturity so far.”
USU forward Justin Bean agreed with his coach.
“It feels great,” said Bean, who finished with his fourth double-double of the season with a team-best 13 points and 13 rebounds. “Any time you can win on the road, you are getting ahead (in the conference standings. To get a road sweep is big.”
That is three sweeps by the Aggies to start the season.
Joining Bean in the double-double department was Queta with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Marco Anthony came close to joining those two as he finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“The stat that jumped out to me was we had more rebounds (53) than they had points (46),” Bean said. “... My goal was to keep No. 5 (Rod Brown) off the boards, which allowed our guards to get some rebounds. I had more of an edge in the second half. I wanted to take care of that and be aggressive and get to the glass.”
Bean had more offensive rebounds with eight than the entire Lobo team, which had six. New Mexico came into the series as one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country at 12.5.
“I thought Bean was really good,” Smith said. “He had eight offensive rebounds in one half. ... Queta was really good in all phases. Marco Anthony made some tough-guy plays.”
Twelve Aggies played Friday, with 11 scoring points. Steven Ashworth came off the bench to net 10 points and dished out a game-best five assists.
The Lobos were led by Makuach Maluach with 13 points.
Bean hit a 3-pointer to start the scoring, and the Aggies were off and running. After a Lobo bucket, USU scored the next 13 points. Anthony drilled a trey to spark the run and had nine points, including a driving layup to cap the surge and give the visitors a 16-2 lead 5:30 into the game. USU hit its first six shots.
“We wanted to step on them early,” Bean said. “We were really dialed in and got stops on defense and was able to get out and go.”
It would get worse for the Lobos.
Bean threw down a pass from Ashworth and then Ashworth drilled a shot from beyond the arc to help the Aggies score seven unanswered points. The trey gave USU a 27-8 lead with 7:22 left in the opening half.
“We got off to a fantastic start,” Smith said. “... There were a lot of great efforts tonight. There were a lot of guys that played well.”
Brock Miller got into the 3-point barrage to help USU score six straight points. The Aggies did that twice before the break. Ashworth hit nothing but net from 3-point land, and USU took a 45-18 lead into halftime.
After shooting 57 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes, the Aggies began the second half missing a handful of shots. However, they crashed the boards and got many second-chance opportunities.
“We came out with the same fire and energy,” Bean said. “I’m super proud of our guys.”
Worster got two buckets and found Bean for a dunk as the Aggies used a 8-0 run to more than double up the Lobos, 56-25, with 12:32 to play.
With many bench players getting time in the second half, USU didn’t lose much. In fact the Aggies kept building on their lead. Alphonso Anderson hit two free throws to cap a 6-0 run to give USU a 73-40 lead with 3:22 to play.
The Aggies scored the final nine points of the game for their largest margin. Freshman Karson Stastny got a 3-point shot to fall in the final seconds for his first points as an Aggie, and the USU bench erupted.
“We had a lot of winning plays tonight,” Smith said. “It was a great team win. It’s always tough to win on the road. ... Its exciting when guys are genuinely happy for others success.”
Utah State began the day at No. 68 in the NET rankings up 19 from Monday, while New Mexico checked in at No. 298, down 38 spots from Monday. ... The last time the Aggies began conference play 6-0 was during the 2010-11 season when they were in the WAC. That season they won their first 11 league games. … The Aggies won the rebound battle, 53-22, for the 12th straight game this season and are 61-11 under Smith when that happens. … With three blocked shots Friday, Queta has moved past Gilbert Pete (155) and into first place in career blocks as he now has 156. … Queta now has 18 career double-doubles, while Bean has 21. … The Aggies lead the all-time series with the Lobos, 29-12.
Once again there are several worthy candidates. Bean gets the nod. The junior had his fourth double-double of the season with a team-best 13 points and 13 rebounds. The forward was 6 of 9 from the field. Bean also added two assists and played 25 minutes.
AGGIE DUNK COUNT
Bean got the first dunk of the game off a nice pass from Ashworth more than 10 minutes into the game. Just before halftime, Anthony had a two-handed dunk off a pass from Trevin Dorius. Then Dorius got into the act just before the break, throwing down a pass from Ashworth.
Queta got into the action early in the second half off a nice alley-oop pass from Bean. Queta made it two dunks with a drive to the bucket, Bean added another jam off a pass from Rollie Worster. Queta and Bean hooked up again midway through the second half. Dorius added another slam on a fastbreak when Alphonso Anderson found him late in the game.
Season dunk count: Queta 20, Bean 5, Anthony 4, Dorius 4, Szymon Zapala 2, Anderson 1, Sean Bairstow 1.
After four games on the road, the Aggies return home for four straight. They begin with a two-game series against preseason conference favorite San Diego State next Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The Aztecs (8-2, 2-1) edged Nevada at home Thursday night, 65-60, and play the Wolf Pack again on Saturday.