This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
RENO, NEV. -- The Utah State Aggies (27-6, 14-2) extended their Western Athletic Conference winning streak to 16 Friday night, and 17 overall as they defeated the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 85-55 in the WAC tournament semifinal.
The Aggies played very efficient offense while playing stellar defense on the Louisiana Tech.
The Aggies shared the ball well and won both the points battle and rebound battle down low. The Aggies will now prepare for the other Aggies of the WAC in New Mexico State, who upset Nevada Friday night, 80-79. New Mexico States Jahmar Young hit a jumper from the top of the key moving right to left with 3.8 seconds to go to beat the Wolf Pack.
Senior guard Jared Quayle led the sweltering Aggie offense with 16 points and four assists. Sophomore forward Brady Jardine added 13 points and junior forward Pooh Williams chipped in 10. The Aggies hit 58.8 percent of their shots from the field and a fiery 52.6 percent on 10-of-19 from 3-point range.
Jardine, who struggled offensively against Boise State, getting just three points, said the difference was a team effort.
"My teammates got me the ball in easy to score places. My favorite thing about this team is that we don't have a guy out there that's in it for himself," Jardine said. "Every time I was open the ball was in my hands and my teammates made great passes."
Aggie Head Coach Stew Morrill was not only impressed with Jardine's short term improvement but long term as well," Jardine did a good job tonight. The thing that I am so pleased with is how he has improved. He's able to shoot face up jumpers right now, he's a much better passer, and he's making progress defensively. He's just improved a whole bunch as the season has gone along."
The Bulldogs' leading scorer Kyle Gibson only scored 10 points on the night. David Jackson and Olu Asholu also had 10 points apiece for the Bulldogs, who kept the score close until senior center Magnum Rolle went down about three minutes into the game and by the end of the first period, the Aggies led 46-24.
"I think the first obvious thing is that Louisiana Tech was not themselves. They were not anything close to full strength; not our fault. We just played the way we needed to," Morrill said. "With Rolle going down and Gibson not being himself; that is not the Louisiana Tech team that you have seen all year long. With that being said I'm glad guys took care of business and kept playing."
The Aggies' efficiency was never more evident when comparing assists and turnovers. Utah State dished out 22 assists and committed just 10 turnovers. The Bulldogs finished with seven assists and seven turnovers.
"That's the strength of our team. When you looks at our assists and turnovers over the year, at the beginning of the season we were about 1-and-1 assist-to-turnover and now we're a lot closer to 2-and-1. That's phenomenal for your whole team to do that," Morrill said.
Even though the Aggies controlled both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, Coach Morrill said it was the defensive control that was most important.
"You can't always control the ball going in the hole, but you can control the way you defend and rebound and I thought we were pretty solid in both those areas. That's where we try and hang our hat."
The Aggies out-rebounded the Bulldogs, 39-26 to go along with their stifling defense, holding the Bulldogs to 34.5 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from 3-point land.
In New Mexico State's upset of Nevada, the Aggies balanced offense offset Luke Babbitt's game high 33 points. Only two other Wolf Pack players reached double digits; Joey Shaw and Armon Johnson had 13 apiece. Troy Gillenwater led New Mexico State with 21 points, but it was Young who calmly scored four straight points to finish the game and give New Mexico State the win.
Utah State and New Mexico State will be facing off in the WAC Tournament for the second consecutive year and third time overall. This will also be the second time the two teams have met in the WAC Tournament Championship. The two teams split the season series with both teams winning on their home court. New Mexico State defeated the Aggies in Las Cruces, 55-52, and Utah State pummeled New Mexico State in Logan, 81-63.
During the 2009 WAC Tournament Utah State defeated New Mexico State, 71-70. Junior guard Tyler Newbold hit a 12-foot jumper to give the Aggies the victory in a game they trailed most of the time. New Mexico State defeated Utah State in the 2007 WAC Tournament in Las Cruces, 72-70.
This time the match-up will be at a neutral site, which might be somewhat of a relief for Coach Morrill.
"If Nevada would have won, it would have been Utah State's fourth championship game all on the other teams court," Morrill said, but obviously pleased to be playing in the championship. "We're happy to be in our fourth championship game in our five years in the WAC."
The Utah Aggies are headed to their fourth WAC Tournament Championship game in five years and they are 7-5 all-time in tournament championship games including a 1-2 record in the WAC. Tip-off against New Mexico State is set for 8 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. The game can be heard on 610 AM (KVNU) and 95.9 FM (KLZX).