Logan • During a short break in his pregame warmup routine, Abel Porter said it was a bittersweet night. It wouldn’t be long before the junior guard played his final game at The Spectrum for the Utah State men’s basketball team.
The night was bittersweet for various reasons. Bittersweet for the Aggies honored on Senior Night before the game, a group which included Porter, who redshirted in 2016-17, Diogo Brito, Sam Merrill and Roche Grootfaam.
Additionally, it was bitter for San Jose State and oh so sweet for the Aggies.
Utah State started the game with 19 straight points and blew out the Spartans 94-56 in their final home game of the season. The Aggies have now won six straight games and nine of their last 10.
“Just a special, special night,” Merrill said. “You couldn’t have scripted tonight any better.
Merrill seemed to be choking back tears during his entire postgame media session. He said in his four years at USU, he hasn’t let his parents sit in the seats his grandfather has, which are right near the Aggies bench. But on this night, his parents sat there.
Brito, who is from Portugal, said the moment he’ll remember most about Tuesday was before the game, when he walked down the tunnel with his parents. He asked his mom not to cry so he wouldn’t start crying.
Coach Craig Smith chose to start Brito over sophomore guard Brock Miller, who usually plays with the first group. Brito said Smith told him Friday that he would start and said he would try to bring the same energy to the game as if he was coming off the bench.
“I''m thankful [to] coach for letting me start on my senior night,” Brito said. “That was something very special.”
Sophomore center Neemias Queta led Utah State with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Merrill added 18 points and seven assists. Porter, who already has his bachelor’s degree and will get his masters in a few months, had six points and six assists. Brito had six points, five rebounds and five assists.
Grootfaam scored only two baskets, but the crowd showered him with cheers on the second one, which was a get-out-of-my-way-type two-handed dunk late in the game. Grootfaam hasn’t played much this season and was injured last season.
“If there was one guy that you wanted to have a special, shining moment, it was Roche," Brito said. “Seeing him do that, that’s really special because I really was rooting for him.”
Now the Aggies have just one more game left in the regular season. It’s Saturday at New Mexico, which is 6-11 in the Mountain West Conference.
While there were a lot of emotions felt by not only the seniors, but the entire team, USU’s players still managed to keep their focus on the the task at hand.
“I think we did the best we could to understand what we’re playing for and not take San Jose State lightly because they’ve been playing some good basketball,” Merrill said. “Our mindset was great and we did the right things.”
Smith said the team had “a great look” to it throughout the last week of practices and before the game. He added that he thinks the four seniors will remember Tuesday’s game “forever.”
“All of our guys, I felt like, were just playing for them [the seniors],” Smith said.
Utah State improved its conference record to 12-5, pulling it even with Nevada for second place behind San Diego State (16-1 MWC). Boise State is fourth at 11-6.
The Aggies allowed only 14 first-half points to the Spartans.