Utah State, Nevada reach WAC final


POSTED: Saturday, March 14, 2009

RENO, Nev. » Tyler Newbold had no intention of leaving Utah State's NCAA Tournament status up to the committee.

The sophomore guard buried the game-winning jumper with 3 seconds left as No. 1 seed Utah State rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat fifth-seeded New Mexico State 71-70 to advance to the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship last night at the Lawlor Events Center.

Utah State set a school record with its 29th victory, but isn't guaranteed an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The Aggies won't have to worry about it if they can get past host Nevada in tonight's WAC championship game at 4 p.m. Hawaii time. It's the third time in four years since they joined the WAC that Utah State is playing in the final.

“;This was a great win for us,”; Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “;We were definitely in trouble at halftime. In the second half we did a much better job on defense.”;

New Mexico State shredded Utah State's zone defense in the first half, going 8-for-11 from the 3-point line. Jonathan Gibson scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half as New Mexico State led 47-34 at the break.

New Mexico State only hit one 3-pointer in the second half as Utah State switched to man-to-man defense.

NMSU was still up 68-60 with 5:17 remaining, but only made one field goal the rest of the way.

A bucket by Pooh Williams pulled Utah State to 70-69 with 1:25 left.

After a timeout with 6 seconds remaining, during which the teams' mascots got into a tussle at midcourt, Tai Wesley found Newbold on the wing, whose jumper rolled in with 3 seconds left to give Utah State its only lead of the second half.

“;I almost shot it, but I saw (Newbold) wide open and I made the pass to Tyler,”; Wesley said.

Gary Wilkinson scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and Wesley rebounded from a tough quarterfinal game against Fresno State to finish with 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Young finished with 15 points and Troy Gillenwater added 12 points off the bench for New Mexico State, which finished the season 17-15.

“;They put together some runs and made a few good shots that were clutch, which is what they do,”; New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said. “;There's a reason they are 29-4.”;

Nevada 77, Louisiana Tech 68

Armon Johnson scored 24 points and Luke Babbitt added 23 as the Wolf Pack outscored the Bulldogs by 13 in the second half to pull out the win.

Kyle Gibson scored a game-high 25 points and Magnum Rolle added 24 for Louisiana Tech, which only made one field goal in the first 7 minutes of the second half.