Gary Wilkinson scored 21 points and Jared Quayle and Tai Wesley each had double-doubles to help Utah State win the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship 72-62 over Nevada on Saturday night.
Quayle had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Wesley 14 points and
11 rebounds for the top-seeded Aggies (30-4), who held Nevada
scoreless for the first 6½ minutes and denied Wolf Pack scoring
leader Luke Babbitt a field goal until 16:24 was left in the game.
The tournament title gave the WAC's regular season champs their
sixth trip to the NCAA tournament in 10 years, but first since
2006. It's the first time in school history they've won 30 games in
Armon Johnson scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half
while the freshman Babbitt finished with only eight points - nine
below his average - on 3-of-12 shooting from the field for
second-seeded Nevada (21-12), which made only two of its first 21
attempts from the field and shot only 30 percent on the game.
Nevada coach Mark Fox said Babbitt was battling a back injury.
Trailing 28-23 at the half, the closest Nevada came in the
second half was on Johnson's two-handed dunk to make it 29-25 with
Williams, who finished with 12 points, and Tyler Newbold hit
consecutive 3-pointers and Wilkinson scored on a hook on an 8-0 run
to push the lead to 38-27.
Joey Shaw made a 15-footer but Wilkinson answered with a jump
hook and a 19-footer to spark another 12-0 run that put the Aggies
ahead 49-32 with 9:40 left. Johnson converted a 3-point play but
Quayle nailed a 3-point goal and Wesley tipped in a rebound for a
Lyndale Burleson, Malik Cooke and Babbitt made consecutive
3-pointers to pull within 54-44 with 4:08 remaining. But Utah State
ran off another six straight points to go up 61-44 on Wilkinson's
basket inside with 2:47 left.
Cooke made a 3-pointer and Johnson followed with a 3-point goal,
3-point play and another 3-point goal to cut it to 66-56 with 1:18
on the clock. But Wilkinson made two free throws and Williams
slammed home Newbold's alley-oop pass to make it 70-59 and secure
Utah State raced to a 13-0 lead as Nevada missed its first 10
shots before Ahyaro Phillips' tip-in with 13:30 left in the first
Shaw scored to cut the lead to 15-4 but Quayle, Wesley and
Wilkinson made three more baskets to put the Aggies up 21-4 midway
through the half.
The Wolf Pack's dry spell continued until Johnson converted a
3-point play to spark an 11-0 run capped by Phillips tip in to pull
Utah State had its own 5-minute scoring drought until Newbold's
basket 4:13 before the half. But Shaw matched it then turned a
steal into a 3-point play when he was fouled on a layup to cut the
Aggies' lead to 25-21.
Utah State's Stavon Williams added a 3-point goal at 1:10 but
Nevada's Dario Hunt made two free throws just before the half to
make it 28-23.
Cooke finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and six steals
while Shaw had 10 points.
UTAH ST. 72, NEVADA 62
UTAH ST. (30-4)
P.Williams 3-6 5-5 12, Quayle 5-8 4-7 15, Newbold 2-5 2-4 7, Wesley 5-10 4-6 14, Wilkinson 9-18 3-4 21, S.Williams 1-1 0-0 3, Jardine 0-1 0-0 0, Myaer 0-1 0-0 0, Formisano 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 18-26 72.
Burleson 1-4 0-0 3, Babbitt 3-12 1-1 8, Cooke 3-7 2-2 10, Johnson 7-21 3-3 20, Hunt 2-5 3-3 7, Fields 0-8 0-0 0, Shaw 4-10 1-1 10, R.Phillips 0-1 0-0 0, A.Phillips 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 22-72 10-10 62.
Halftime-Utah St. 28-23. 3-Point Goals-Utah St. 4-11 (S.Williams 1-1, Quayle 1-2, P.Williams 1-2, Newbold 1-4, Wilkinson 0-1, Myaer 0-1), Nevada 8-19 (Johnson 3-3, Cooke 2-4, Shaw 1-3, Babbitt 1-3, Burleson 1-4, Fields 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Utah St. 44 (Wesley 11), Nevada 34 (Cooke 8). Assists-Utah St. 13 (Wesley 4), Nevada 9 (Babbitt, Burleson 3). Total Fouls-Utah St. 15, Nevada 18. A-7,820.