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Steven Ashworth shines in Utah State men’s basketball’s 64-59 win over San Diego State

Freshman guard puts up a career-high 17 points and leads the Aggies to their 10th straight win.

Utah State guard Sean Bairstow (2) drives to the basket as San Diego State guard Trey Pulliam defends during the first half of their game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Logan. Utah State won that game, then defeated the Aztecs 64-59 in Logan on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 for a sweep of the two MWC games. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP, Pool)

Logan • It’s not very often that someone other than Neemias Queta, Justin Bean or Brock Miller leads the Utah State men’s basketball team in scoring on any given game day.

But it’s even less often when a true freshman does it.

Freshman point guard Steven Ashworth put up a career high 17 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field and 8 of 8 from the free-throw line in Saturday afternoon’s 64-59 win over San Diego State. It marked the 10th straight win for the Aggies, who now share 8-0 Mountain West Conference records with the Boise State Broncos.

“He was really good,” Aggies coach Craig Smith said of Ashworth, who played 23 minutes off the bench. “He’s figuring it out.”

Ashworth is a Utahn who played his high school basketball at Lone Peak. In his senior year, he led the Knights to a 6A state title.

On Saturday, Ashworth led Utah State to its second straight win over rival San Diego State. The Aggies beat the Aztecs on Thursday in a game that had implications for their upcoming schedule of formidable opponents. Ashworth scored five points and played 16 minutes in that game.

Ashworth was on practically from the moment he entered the game Saturday. His first two shots were from the 3-point line, and he made them both.

Ashworth said he felt like he was in rhythm after making the second 3-pointer.

“From there on, it felt good,” Ashworth said. “I had a few other shots that I felt like should have gone down and a few other good looks.”

USU felt the bulk Ashworth’s impact from his perfect performance at the free throw line. His eight makes from that distance led the team, and they all came in the second half when the Aggies needed them most.

With the score tied 49-49 with 6:18 left in the game, Ashworth made four consecutive free throws to give the Aggies a four-point lead. He made two more to break a 53-all tie a couple of minutes later. He also made the last two of the game that cemented the final score.

Much of the way Ashworth got to the free throw line was getting into the paint and drawing contact. He said that is a skill he’s possessed since high school, and one that continues to develop at Utah State.

Ashworth said that on Thursday, Aztec defenders blocked his shot “three or four times” when he tried to get in the paint. After watching some film, he made the adjustment and looked for open teammates on Saturday, he said.

“But then the lane just opened up and I was able to go up with it and get fouled,” Ashworth said.

Smith said Ashworth is the type of player that “craves improvement,” constantly asking coaches how he can get better. He also said Ashworth is similar to freshman starting point guard Rollie Worster in that he doesn’t care about stats — he just wants to win.

Smith also praised Ashworth’s defensive effort against Aztecs guard Terrell Gomez, who San Diego State unrelentingly ran off screens. Gomez led SDSU with 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting and made 4 of 7 from the 3-point line, but Ashworth did block one of his 3-point attempts.

“He really impacted the game with his pace,” Smith said of Ashworth.

Utah St. 64, San Diego St. 59

SAN DIEGO ST. (9-4)

Arop 0-1 0-0 0, Mensah 1-5 1-5 3, Pulliam 3-10 0-0 7, Schakel 5-9 0-0 11, Seiko 1-3 0-0 2, Gomez 5-13 2-2 16, Butler 6-8 1-2 13, Tomaic 2-7 1-2 5, Johnson 0-0 2-4 2. Totals 23-56 7-15 59.

UTAH ST. (11-3)

Bean 1-9 2-2 4, Queta 4-6 2-6 10, Anthony 2-6 2-3 6, Miller 4-8 0-0 11, Worster 2-7 0-0 5, Ashworth 3-8 8-8 17, Anderson 2-6 5-6 9, Bairstow 1-1 0-0 2, Dorius 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-51 19-25 64.

Halftime—San Diego St. 32-22. 3-Point Goals—San Diego St. 6-19 (Gomez 4-7, Pulliam 1-3, Schakel 1-5, Butler 0-1, Seiko 0-1, Tomaic 0-2), Utah St. 7-22 (Ashworth 3-6, Miller 3-7, Worster 1-3, Anthony 0-1, Bean 0-2, Anderson 0-3). Fouled Out—Queta. Rebounds—San Diego St. 28 (Mensah, Johnson 5), Utah St. 38 (Queta 10). Assists—San Diego St. 7 (Pulliam 2), Utah St. 11 (Queta 4). Total Fouls—San Diego St. 23, Utah St. 19. A—1,638 (10,270).

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