CONWAY, S.C. (Nov. 18) – The 2021 Myrtle Beach Invitational got off to a thrilling start in Thursday’s opening session, as Utah State and Penn went into double overtime before the Aggies emerged with an 87-79 victory.
The contest was so exciting that even the coach on the losing end, Penn’s Steve Donahue, acknowledged, “That was a great college basketball game. The kids on both sides played their hearts out. It was evenly matched with big play after big play.”
Utah State (2-1) led 51-40 midway through the first half before the Quakers (2-3) went on a 16-4 run to take a 56-55 lead. Neither team led by more than three points through the rest of regulation and the first overtime.
The game nearly ended after one OT, as Penn forward Max Martz sank what initially was ruled to be a 3-pointer that would have given the Quakers a 74-73 lead with 27 seconds left. But replay showed that Martz’ foot was barely on the 3-point line, keeping the game tied.
The Aggies finally pulled away by outscoring Penn 8-2 over the final 86 seconds of the second. Utah State guard Rylan Jones sank four consecutive free throws down the stretch, making him 10-for-10 from the line for the game, an MBI tournament record.
“It was an out-and-out battle, with the game hanging in the balance throughout,” Utah State coach Ryan Odom said. “We were able to get a lead in the second half and they came storming back. It just seemed like that was the way the game was going to go.”
Utah State forward Justin Bean scored 33 points (the second-most in MBI history) on 13-of-19 shooting and grabbed a tournament-record 16 rebounds. He played all but 27 seconds of the 50-minute game.
“Clearly the day belongs to Justin and his effort,” Odom said. “His willingness to give his body for his team, his willingness to chase rebounds, his ability to be a go-to guy for us at key times was the difference in the game, and it allowed us to outlast them at the end.”
There certainly wasn’t much difference between the two teams until the end, as the game was tied 28-28 at halftime and 64-64 after regulation.
“We came together, and that’s what made it fun for us,” Bean said. “We stayed tight-knit during those late stretches where it was high pressure and critical situations.”
Jordan Dingle scored 31 points for Penn, though he went only 3-for-11 from 3-point range. As a team, the Quakers were 9-for-33 from long distance.
New Mexico State 75, Davidson 64: In a game filled with ebbs and flows, the ball began flowing into the basketball at just the right time for New Mexico State.
NM State (3-0) built an 11-point lead then fell behind by 10 – all in the first half – before rallying for the victory. The Aggies went 11-of-17 from the field over the final 12 minutes of the game, including a key stretch of three consecutive 3-pointers that turned a two-point lead into a 55-46 advantage, and they never trailed again.
“They knocked us on our heels to start the game, then we knocked them on their heels, and they came back right,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “They made some big 3s down the stretch that really hurt us.”
After jumping out to a 14-2 lead less than four minutes into the game, the Aggies managed only nine points over the next 14 minutes, allowing Davidson (1-2) to build a 33-23 advantage.
NM State coach Chris Jans notes that the Aggies have only five returning players and never trailed in their first two games of the season, and it showed when the Wildcats rallied so quickly.
“We sometimes get too high and too low,” NM State coach Chris Jans said. “This is the only game we’ve trailed in, so that was a new experience for us. It’s almost like they pricked our balloon when they took the lead back, and we were deflated. I could feel it.”
But NM State scored the final five points of the half, pulling to within 33-28 at halftime. “The big key was how we finished the half, cutting it to five,” Jans said. “That was huge, so it wasn’t such a big lead from the kids’ perspective.”
Teddy Allen had a game-high 22 points for the Aggies, while Sir’Jabari Rice scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists.
Luka Brajkovic led the way for Davidson with 19 points and seven rebounds, and Foster Loyer went 4-of-5 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points. But while the Wildcats had four starters score in double figures, McKillop lamented that the bench contributed only two points.
“I fault myself for not using the bench,” McKillop said. “That’s one thing we can learn in this situation, how our bench is going to perform, and I just didn’t take the time to use them as I could have.”