The last time these teams meet Jan. 1 in Las Vegas, Utah State’s Sam Merrill played through an ankle injury and Neemias Queta sat because of a hurt knee.
They are both healthy now, and the difference is clear.
Merrill and Queta combined to score 41 points to rally the Aggies to a 69-54 victory over UNLV on Wednesday night in Logan, Utah.
It was the fourth loss in a row for UNLV (11-13, 6-5 Mountain West). The Rebels were recently alone in second place in the conference and now have fallen to sixth. The top five teams receive first-day byes at next month’s conference tournament.
Queta finished with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists for Utah State (18-7, 7-5). Merrill scored 20 points.
Those players rallied Utah state from a 35-27 deficit less than three minutes into the second half and made sure this wouldn’t be a repeat of the Aggies’ 70-53 loss at the Thomas & Mack Center. Merrill scored 10 points in that game, including just two in the second half.
“We came out and got out to the lead we needed to start the second half,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “I loved our energy there. The game settled in and kind of got away from us.”
Utah State also frustrated UNLV with a 1-3-1 zone in the second half, helping result in 23-point swing.
“It disrupted our rhythm offensively,” Otzelberger said. “We need to get the ball in the middle of the zone and try to attack from there. We didn’t do a good enough job of that, and at times we tried to space and drive with four guards, and it wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be. We’ve got to be able to throw the ball into the interior and create some scoring opportunities, and that wasn’t the case tonight.”
Offense in general was lacking for the Rebels, who shot 38.5 percent, including 30.8 in the second half.
UNLV made just 4-of-15 3-point attempts.
The Rebels totaled just seven assists compared to 19 for Utah State.
Only two UNLV players scored in double figures — Bryce Hamilton with 15 points and Amauri Hardy with 10.
“We need more scoring across the board,” Otzelberger said.
The Rebels next play Fresno State at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas & Mack.