Utah State men's and women's basketball teams previewed the 2018-19 season for fans on Thursday night in Aggie Madness, as both teams scrimmaged and participated in shooting contests in the Wayne Estes Center.
The Hot Shot competition opened the night with teams of one men's player, one women's player and a pair of Utah State student rebounders. The team of junior guard Sam Merrill and junior forward Hailey Bassett-Meacham won the competition with a 29-point performance in the finale.
The 3-point contest followed with a bracket-style competition between the men and women. The event came down to Merrill and junior guard Olivia West, with Merrill taking another victory with 16 threes.
The women then took the court for their eight-minute scrimmage. The White team took the 14-7 win with junior guard Eliza West, and junior forwards Shannon Dufficy and Marlene Aniambossou each scoring four points apiece. Bassett-Meacham led all scorers with all seven points for the Blue team.
"It's the first time in the Estes Center," said head women's basketball coach Jerry Finkbeiner. "We tried to have a night where it's louder and hotter. It seemed like a little March Madness in October. The marketing people did a really good job. Our players are very excited, both the women's and the men's team. They showed up well. We're both battling some injuries right now, but we're still about three weeks away, and I like the way both teams are headed."
The men took the court next, with the White team earning the 25-15 victory. Freshman center Neemias Queta was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor to lead the White team with eight points. Merrill led the White team with six rebounds. For the Blue, sophomore guard John Knight III scored a game-high 10 points.
"It was fantastic," said head men's basketball coach Craig Smith. "We had a great turnout. There was a lot of energy. It's always fun. It's a big thing to our players. I can't speak for the women's team, but I know for our guys, it really means something and it's become a tradition all across the country. Every year we have these, practice that day is always pretty average. You know that going in because all of the guys are so fired up for the event that they're thinking about, 'What dunk am I doing?' and 'Can I win the 3-point shootout?' and 'What are we going to do in the 5-on-5?'
“We always refer to our guys as men and young men, but they kind of get that feeling like it's Christmas or a big game with that kind of nervous energy. It was great. It was fun to see the women practice. Our five-on-five became what it normally does: an NBA All-Star game type of thing. But, it's fun to see the interaction with the players and the community and the Hurd. That's really what it's all about.Comment on this story
The night capped off with a dunk contest amongst redshirt freshman forward Justin Bean, Knight III, freshman guard Tauriawn Knight and Queta, with Bean and Queta advancing to the finale. After a dunk over five people on the ground by Queta and an off-the-side-board dunk from Bean, the duo ended in a tie from the judges. The winner was announced by the crowd, with Bean taking the crown.
The 2018-19 season will begin on Thursday, Nov. 1, as the men host Evergreen State College in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. The Aggie women will play their exhibition the following day, hosting Westminster on Friday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m.