March 9, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Fourth-seeded Utah State men's basketball rallied from a 10-point deficit in the last four minutes, but couldn't get a shot off before the final buzzer, as the defending Western Athletic Conference champions were knocked off by fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech, 72-70, Thursday in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament at the Orleans Arena at Las Vegas, Nev.
Down 69-59 with 4:05 to play, USU rallied within one, but Louisiana Tech's Trevor Gaskins hit the first of two free throws, missing the second. The Aggies couldn't get a shot off before the horn sounded to end the game. Utah State is now 17-15 while LA Tech improved to the identical record, and advances to face top-seeded Nevada in the semifinals on Friday.
Sophomore guard Danny Berger led a trio of Aggies in double-digits with a career-high 17 points, followed by senior guard Brockeith Pane with 13 points, including 11 in the second half. Redshirt-freshman forward Ben Clifford netted a career-best 12 points, while freshman center Jordan Stone joined in on the career-high scoring with nine points off the bench, as the Aggie reserves out-scored their Bulldog counterparts, 38-8.
Louisiana Tech was led by 16 points from both Gaskins and Romario Souza, while Brandon Gibson and Raheem Appleby tossed in 13 points, as the Bulldogs earned their first win of the season over the Aggies, as well as in the WAC Tournament. USU now holds a 14-3 all-time series advantage over LTU, as Thursday's loss snapped an Aggie six-game win streak against the Bulldogs.
Utah State found itself down 10-0 in the early going, but rallied with a 20-3 run, capped by a three-pointer by Clifford from the left wing to take a 20-13 lead. LTU's Gibson hit a three-pointer from the right wing to knot the score at 24-all. A tip-in by Stone with 2:44 left tied it at 30, the fourth even score of the half. Stone hit a pair of charity stripe shots for a 32-30 Aggie advantage with 2:24 to go, but a three from the left corner by Appleby followed by a pair of free throws from Cordarius Johnson with 1:03 on the first half clock put LTU up at the break, 35-32.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt to extend its lead to 44-34 after a Kenneth Smith bucket at the 17:21 mark. USU couldn't get any closer than seven points but wouldn't let LTU pull away, as the Bulldogs took their last 10-point lead at 69-59 with 4:05 remaining after an old-fashioned three-point play by Appleby.
Pane hit a spinning layup and then later hit 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Aggies within, 71-70 with nine seconds left. Gaskins was fouled on the in-bounds play, hitting the first free throw with 6.1 on the clock, but missing the second. USU corralled the rebound, but couldn't get a final shot off before the buzzer.
Utah State shot 20-of-44 (45.8 percent) from the field, including 4-10 (40.0 percent) from three-point range, making 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) free throws, its fourth game this season shooting 80 percent or better.
Louisiana Tech netted 52.9 percent (27-of-51) of its field goals, draining 47.1 percent (8-of-17) behind the arc. The Bulldogs were also 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) at the free pitch stripe.
Utah State had a 34-23 rebounding edge, including 13 on the offensive glass which led to a 13-6 second-chance points advantage. Both teams committed 11 turnovers, with USU swiping six steals while LTU had five. The Aggies had 13 assists on the night, including a career-high tying eight from sophomore guard Preston Medlin.
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