Aggies Earn Automatic Bid To The NCAA Tournament
March 10, 2001
By BETH HARRIS
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Dion Bailey scored 14 points as Utah State defeated Pacific 50-38 Saturday night to win its second consecutive Big West Conference tournament and a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
It was the lowest-scoring championship game in Big West history, and the fewest points ever scored by the winning and losing teams.
The Aggies (27-5) became the first team to repeat as conference champions since UNLV won three straight from 1989-91. Last year, Utah State lost to Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
Pacific (18-12), the fifth seed, reached the title game by upsetting No. 1 seed UC Irvine in the semifinals. But aside from a five-point lead to start the game, the Tigers couldn't muster much offense in losing for the fourth time in a row to Utah State.
Once again, defense proved key to the second-seeded Aggies' success. For the second year in a row, they held all three opponents to under 40 percent shooting. Cal State-Fullerton shot 30.5 percent, Boise State shot 36.2 percent and Pacific was held to 33.3 percent.
The Tigers scored the first six points of the second half to get within four points. But Utah State put together a 16-5 run, including six by Shawn Daniels and consecutive 3-pointers from Bernard Rock and Curtis Bobb, to go up 41-26 with 6:44 remaining.
Rock added 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Daniels had 10 rebounds as Utah State led on the boards 33-32.
Pacific was led by Peter Heizer, who scored 16 points, including his team's final nine.
Tied early in the game, the Aggies used a 16-6 run to end the first half
ahead 25-15. Bailey started the spurt by scoring six straight points as Pacific
was forced into nine turnovers.
The previous fewest points scored in a title game was 100. Fresno State beat UNLV 51-49 in 1984, and Fresno State defeated San Jose State 52-48 in 1981.