RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Nate Harris led four players in double figures
with 19 points and 11 rebounds as Utah State hung on to beat San
Jose State 76-69 Thursday to keep the Aggies' postseason hopes
alive by advancing to the semifinals of the Western Athletic
Chaz Spicer scored 15 points, David Pak 12 and Jaycee Carroll 11
for the Aggies (22-7), who made 18-of-20 free throws and used an
18-1 run to build a 37-25 halftime lead. Harris made 7-of-10 from
the field and all five free-throw attempts to go with two assists
and two blocked shots.
Demetrius Brown scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the
second half for the Spartans (6-25), who shot just 28 percent from
the field the first half but made a 10-0 run midway through the
second half to pull to within 68-67 with 2:38 to go.
Utah State, which has won 21 games or more in each of the past
seven seasons, will face Louisiana Tech (20-11) in Friday night's
semifinal. The winner of the league tourney title gets an automatic
invitation to the NCAA tourney.
Utah State coach Stew Morrill declined to comment after the game
on whether he thought his team deserves an at-large bid to the
NCAAs if it fails to win the conference tournament. But he was
adamant that more than one WAC team should be invited.
"I learned a long time ago not to try and predict what might
happen with selection things," said Morrill, whose team is in its
first season in the WAC.
"A couple years ago, we were ranked in the top 25 and 17-1 in
league (Big West Conference) and lost in the semifinals and we
didn't get in. So we can't control that," he said.
Morrill said the WAC is every bit as deserving as other
conferences across the country expecting to get multiple invites to
the NCAA tournament.
"I'm hearing all this about the Missouri Valley getting three,
four five teams in and the Colonial is going to get two or three,"
"I know the Missouri Valley is tough. I know the Colonial is
tough. I am not trying to put them down. But if our league is
indeed ranked ninth in the country, we should have more than one,"
"In the Big West Conference, we always knew we were only going
to get one. We were 18th out of 31 leagues. One of the things in
coming to the WAC was that this league would get more than one. OK,
well give us more than one, dammit."
"Isn't that supposed to be the deal? This is a good league.
This league deserves more than one. I will say that. There is no
question about that," he said.
Leading 37-25 at the half, Pak hit a pair of 3-pointers then
stole an inbounds pass and scored to put Utah State ahead 50-37
early in the second half.
Carroll's 3-pointer made it 53-40 at 14:54 but the Spartans
scored 10 unanswered points capped by Tyree Gardner's layup off a
steal to cut it to 53-50 at 11:53.
Spicer's steal and basket put the Aggies up 61-53 at 9:21. But
Gardner and Carlton Spencer followed with 3-pointers and Brown's
put-back cut Utah State's lead to 62-61 at 7:20.
Carroll's jumper put Utah State up 68-65 but Brown answered
inside to make it 68-67 at 2:38.
Durrall Peterson made a pair of free throws for a 70-67 lead and
Harris scored inside to make it 72-67 with 1:21 left. Brown scored
again inside to pull to 72-69 with 56 seconds to go, but Carroll
scored inside at :31 and Pak hit both ends of a one-and-one with 14
seconds left to seal the win.
"We made a run in the second half but couldn't get over the
hump," said San Jose State coach George Nessman, who lost starter
Alex Elam in the first half with a broken hand.
"This is a disappointing end to our season.State is the better
team. They beat us three times this season," he said.