FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Sam Merrill scored a career-high 38 points and Utah State stretched its winning streak to seven games, narrowly beating Colorado State 100-96 in overtime Tuesday night to clinch at least a share of the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship.
Merrill added eight rebounds and six assists, committing one turnover while playing all 45 minutes.
“It feels incredible. We had to really grind that one out,” Merrill said. “They’re No. 1 in the league in offensive efficiency. They deserve a lot of credit for making a lot of big shots ... we were down with less than a minute to go and we found a way. That’s who we are and this is a fitting way to win the league with how our season has gone.”
Colorado State went up 86-84 with 52 seconds left in regulation, poised to damage USU’s at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament. But Merrill scores his team’s final nine points of regulation, sending the game to OT by hitting a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left.
USU fell behind by two early in overtime but used a 9-0 run to go up 95-88 with 45 seconds left.
Quinn Taylor had 18 points for Utah State (25-6, 15-3 MWC). Neemias Queta added 12 points. Justin Bean had 10 points for the road team.
Utah State is undefeated (4-0) when scoring at least 100 points this season.
J.D. Paige scored a career-high 29 points and had six assists for the Rams (12-18, 7-10). Kris Martin added 20 points and 10 rebounds. Nico Carvacho had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“To win a regular season — we haven’t won the outright, but we cliched the share — to do that over an 18-game schedule with all that travel, everything that goes on, you have to be mentally and physically tough,” USU head coach Craig Smith said.
USU is done with its regular season while Nevada (27-3, 14-3) hosts San Diego State on Saturday. USU retains a share if Nevada wins, with Nevada taking the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. USU wins the conference outright with an SDSU win.