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Johnson, Martinez help Utah State beat TCU and halt 10-game March Madness slide

Utah State celebrates Utah State celebrates - The Canadian Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- — Isaac Johnson scored 19 points, including 12 straight early in the second half, and eighth-seeded Utah State shot 55% percent to pull away and beat No. 9 seed TCU 88-72 on Friday night and end a 10-game NCAA Tournament losing streak.

The Aggies (28-6) hadn't earned a March Madness victory since beating Ohio State 77-68 in overtime in 2001, and had endured opening-game losses four of the past six seasons. Players and coach Danny Sprinkle have heard more than their share of questions about their March futility and were determined to end the slide once and for all.

Ian Martinez scored 21 points to lead the Aggies, who will face top-seeded Purdue on Sunday in the second round of the Midwest Region.

TCU (21-13) led most of the first half before the Aggies took the lead for good at 37-35 on Martinez’s 3-pointer with 3:22 left before halftime. Leading 43-37 at the break, the 7-foot Johnson took charge from there, making two 3-pointers along with two other baskets and a pair of free throws for a double-digit lead the Aggies steadily increased.

JaKobe Coles had 19 points and Emanuel Miller 13 for the Horned Frogs, who were trying for their third consecutive NCAA first-round win. TCU outrebounded Utah State 41-30 but shot just 36%, including just 29% in the second half.

The Aggies shot well throughout but made 16 of 28 after halftime (57%), including five of their 10 second-half 3s. They were 8 of 19 from behind the arc and converted 14 of 15 free throws.

Great Osobor added 13 points and seven rebounds.