Reserve pushes Utah State into semis


POSTED: Friday, March 13, 2009

RENO, Nev. » Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland felt his team had a chance if it could hold Gary Wilkinson and Taj Wesley under 20 points.

Unfortunately Cleveland didn't factor in Stavon Williams.

Williams scored a career-high 22 points off the bench and Wilkinson, the Western Athletic Conference player of the year, added 18, topping the 1,000 career points mark, as top-seeded Utah State defeated Fresno State 85-68 yesterday in the quarterfinals of the WAC men's basketball tournament at the Lawlor Events Center.

Jared Quayle added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies (28-4), who will face fifth-seeded New Mexico State (17-14) in today's first semifinal (3 p.m. Hawaii time).

“;We started really well and came out very aggressive,”; Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “;We were able to shoot a high percentage and Stavon played great.”;

Williams hadn't topped the 20-point mark all season. He scored 13 of his 22 in the second half and finished 6-for-8 from the 3-point line.

“;When I made my first shot, it really boosted my confidence and let the game come to me,”; Williams said. “;I took the open shots that just came to me.”;

If the Bulldogs had any momentum from their victory over Hawaii on Tuesday night, it was gone less than a minute in. Utah State lived up to its No. 1 seed, outscoring Fresno State 16-2 over the first 4 minutes.

“;I wanted our team to play loose,”; Morrill said. “;We came out ready, our shots fell and our confidence rose.”;

Wesley, third on the Aggies at 12 points per game, was held to three points on 1-for-3 shooting.

“;Never would have thought that without Wilkinson and Wesley going for 20 points that we wouldn't be in the game,”; Cleveland said. “;We tried to make a run at them, but they just kept making a lot of 3-pointers.”;

Utah State finished a scintillating 13-for-21 from beyond the arc, and shot 69 percent from 3-point range in the first half.

Fresno State (13-21) pulled to within 10 on three different occasions before halftime, but the Aggies answered with a run every time.

A 3-pointer by Quayle put the Aggies up 45-31 at the break.

“;We started to panic at the end of the half,”; Cleveland said. “;We took some bad shots and were on our heels defensively.”;

Four Bulldogs finished in double figures, led by freshman Paul George's 16. Senior Dwight O'Neil added 14 in his final game for the Bulldogs and Sylvester Seay had 12.

Fresno State pulled to within nine twice midway through the second half, but Williams hit two 3s during a 14-4 run to put Utah State back up by 19.

“;Utah State is very disciplined and they would come down and make a good play,”; O'Neil said. “;Going out on my career like this, I'm fine with that. My guys played hard.”;

It'll be a battle of Aggies in tonight's first semifinal as Utah State faces a New Mexico State team it beat twice during the regular season by a combined 29 points.

“;We know how explosive they are,”; Morrill said of the opposing Aggies. “;They're young and they have gotten better.”;


New Mexico State 80, Boise State 70

Jonathan Gibson led four Aggies in double figures with 22 points and New Mexico State pulled away late to beat the Broncos.

Mark Sanchez had 25 points and 12 rebounds and Anthony Thomas added 18 for Boise State (19-12), which had twice as many turnovers (18) as the Aggies (nine).

Boise State was just 1-for-9 from 3-point range in the second half.


Nevada 78, San Jose State 69

Luke Babbitt went off for 30 points as the host Wolf Pack (20-11) advanced to the semifinals.

Malik Cooke added 16 points and Armon Johnson poured in 14 for Nevada, which won despite giving up 12 offensive rebounds.

DaShawn Wright went 8-for-11 from the field and scored 22 points off the bench for the Spartans (13-17).


Louisiana Tech 70, Idaho 62

Kyle Gibson only needed nine shot attempts to score 23 points, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range to lead the Bulldogs into the semifinals.

Olu Ashaolu added 14 points and six rebounds before fouling out and Brandon Gibson scored 10 points in 16 minutes for Louisiana Tech, which will face host Nevada in the second semifinal at 6 p.m.

Mac Hopson had 16 points and eight assists to lead the Vandals.