Winning the Myrtle Beach Championship was an ‘iconic’ moment for Utah State’s Justin Bean

The former USU walk-on has been a star for the Aggies this season, ranking in the top 10 nationally in goals and rebounds.

(John Locher | AP) Justin Bean (34) of Utah State plays against UNLV during an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 in Las Vegas. This season, Bean ranks in the national top 10 for goals and rebounds.

Utah State forward Justin Bean grew up a 10-minute drive from the University of Oklahoma campus. When he played against his brothers, they claimed they were the stars of the Sooners: Hollis Price, Quannas White, Kevin Bookout, Taj Gray.

The way Bean opened his senior season, there will likely be kids in an alley with Logan posing as the Aggies star.

Bean ranks in the top 10 nationally in both scores (No.6, 24 points per game) and rebounds (No.4, 13.8 rebounds per game) after leading USU to a victory 73-70 over his hometown Sooners this weekend to win the Myrtle Beach Invitation.

“It certainly means a lot to me. It’s for sure one of the most iconic moments of my Utah State career, ”Bean said afterward. “I don’t take these moments for granted.”

Bean scored 24 points and picked up a career-high 19 rebounds to help USU beat Oklahoma on Sunday in the Championship game. He was named the tournament’s MVP, before winning his second straight Mountain West Player of the Week title on Monday.

The Aggies trailed for most of the second half. Then Brock Miller scored 3 points for a 67-66 lead with 1:46 remaining. Miller sank another triple a minute later to take a 70-66 lead. After a pair of free throws, the Sooners were at 70-68 and were forced to commit a foul. Bean made 3 of 4 in the line to finish for the State of Utah.

“In the last four minutes we’ve really come together and trust each other,” Bean said.

The victory looked like an NCAA tournament game for Bean. “It looked like that type of environment,” he said. And that could be an important win for the Aggies in March. Oklahoma is a Top 50 team in the KenPom standings (45) and a nice addition to the start of the Ags CV.

Utah State is now 4-1 to start the season, and Bean was no small part of his team’s success early in the year.

“I worked a lot in the offseason,” Bean said. “I feel like that confidence came from a great coaching staff, who helped me get to where I am at this point. They helped me become a whole different player to be honest.

“It’s like Wilt Chamberlain,” joked first-year head coach Ryan Odom after watching the forward register another double-double against the Sooners. “It’s crazy.”

Utah State led 32-30 at the half, then Oklahoma opened the second half with an extended 20-11 streak. During this stretch, Odom turned to Bean to find another level.

“Literally the first thing you notice about Justin is his drive and his willingness to go after the ball and put his body in it,” Odom said.

The new USU head coach, however, wants the former replacement to think like a go-to player for his team, stretching defenses with his shot and putting the ball on the ground to create at the edge.

“He’s obviously developed things this offseason that really added to his game and he’s not afraid to do it in these instances – and he has his coach’s blessing to do it,” Odom said.

The Sooners were leading 57-50 on nine minutes, but four quick runs by Utah State forced a time out in Oklahoma. Oklahoma maintained the lead but Utah State was 64-62 after Miller scored in the paint with 3:03 left. The teams traded baskets before Miller hit the 3-point pointer to give the Aggies their first lead of the second half.

After the win, Bean said he would take just a moment to reflect on the win and his journey to this point in his career.

“I probably should,” he said. “Knowing myself, I’m usually going to go, go, go. I usually don’t think much about things. But at this point, being just a senior and having so much love and respect for my team and knowing how much it meant to them, I’m definitely going to take it and enjoy it. Then it’s back to work.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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