Spicer's Clutch Free Throws Lead Utah State To 79-77 Win Over No. 10 Nevada Friday
March 9, 2007
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Chaz Spicer did it again. For the second time in just over a week the senior forward calmly drained two free throws in the waning moments against Nevada, this time with 2.5 seconds left to give fourth-seeded Utah State a 79-77 upset win over top-seed and 10th-ranked Nevada Thursday night in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament. Utah State advances to Saturday's championship game at 7 p.m. (MT), where the navy-clad Aggies will face the maroon-clad Aggies of host second-seed New Mexico State.
It is the first time in the history of the WAC that a team has advanced to the championship game in its first two years in the league.
Saturday night marks the third year in a row and the seventh time in the last eight years that Utah State will be playing in the conference tournament championship game.
The WAC Championship game will be broadcast on ESPN2, on the Internet on wac.tv and on the radio on the Aggie Radio Network on KVNU (610 AM) in Logan and ESPN radio (1320 AM) in Salt Lake City.
Utah State improved to 23-10 overall, marking the eighth-straight season for the Aggies to reach the 23-win plateau. USU is now one of just four teams in the nation to win at least 23 games in the last eight years along with Duke, Gonzaga and Kansas.
With the loss, Nevada is now 28-4, losing for the second time in last four games after winning the previous nine in a row.
Nevada's Marcelus Kemp hit five three-pointers on the night, the last with :24.4 seconds left. After a USU turnover on the inbounds play, Kemp stole the ball at mid-court and drove to the basket, hitting a spinning jumper in the middle of the lane with :19.3 seconds left.
Utah State took a timeout to set up the final play and ran the clock down until Spicer drove the right wing and got fouled.
Spicer's free throws came after he was fouled on a controversial call driving to the basket. He made an acrobatic shot, spinning it off the backboard and in, but it was waved off as the foul was ruled to be on the floor before the shot.
After the free throws, Nevada got the ball to Ramon Sessions, who attempted a running three-pointer at the buzzer, but for the second night in a row, Utah State had to helplessly hold its breath and wait for the shot to reach the basket after Thursday's win over Hawai'i also came down to the final shot.
In last week's thrilling win over Nevada, Spicer was also fouled on a controversial call, so Friday's action had a strong aroma of deja vu.
The two free throws were Spicer's fourth game winner this season, as he hit a three-pointer wiith :01.6 seconds left to give the Aggies a 60-57 win over in-state rival Utah on Dec. 6. In Utah State's 80-79 come-from-behind win over Boise State on Jan. 18, Spicer had a three-point play with :07.4 seconds. Then last Thursday, Spicer hit two free pitch shots with :03.8 seconds for Utah State's overtime win over Nevada by the identical 79-77 score.
Spicer was of three Aggies in double figures, finishing with 20 points, while Jaycee Carroll tallied 24 for the second night in a row. Durrall Peterson had 13 points, including four three-pointers, two of which happened on back-to-back USU possessions within the game's final three minutes.
Spicer was 6-of-6 at the free throw line for the night, while Carroll was 7-of-7, as Utah State shot 18-of-21 (85.7 percent) from the charity stripe. The Aggies were 7-of-8 at the free pitch line in the final 1:36 of the game.
The Aggies were 27-of-63 (42.9 percent) from the field, hitting 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) behind the three-point arc, while Nevada was 28-of-60 (46.7 percent) field goal shooting and 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) from three-point range. The Wolf Pack was also 13-of-17 (76.5 percent) at the free throw line
For the second game in a row and the sixth time in last seven that Utah State was out-rebounded, with a 39-31 Nevada advantage, as the Wolf Pack lost for just the third time when out-rebounding the opponent in 26 games.
Kemp shared game-high scoring honors with Carroll, netting 24 points for the game, including 21 in the second half. Nick Fazekas tallied 20 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season.
Nevada has lost six games to WAC opponents in the last two years, three to USU.
Utah State tied its season-low with six turnovers, while forcing 14 Nevada miscues, leading to a 19-12 USU advantage in points off turnovers.
Nevada stormed out to a 6-0 lead and led 18-8 after another three-pointer by Kemp. Utah State bounced back and Carroll later hit a three from the left corner to cap a 12-0 run that gave the Aggies a 20-18 lead at the 11:43 mark.
Carroll hit a layup with 7:15 on the clock for a 24-22 USU lead, but then Nevada took control, opening a 33-28 lead before the Aggies closed to 33-32 at the half.
Out of halftime, the Wolf Pack led by seven on several occasions, but the Aggies hung around, mounting a 10-0 run, capped by a Carroll trey in the right corner at the 7:17 mark to make the scoreboard read in Utah State's favor for the first time since that 24-22 point, at 60-57.
Kemp hit a three at 3:10 to tie the score at 66-all, but then Peterson hit his back-to-back downtown shots, setting up the final moments of madness.