March 10, 2006
RENO, Nev. - Jaycee Carroll scored 18 points to lead a trio of Utah State players in double figures as the Aggies defeated Louisiana Tech 68-64 in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals and advanced to the tournament title game slated for Saturday.
Utah State became the first, first-year team in the league to advance to the WAC Championship game since 1997 when Texas Christian lost to Utah in the finals. The Aggies have also reached a conference tournament championship game for the sixth time in the last seven years, with each of the first six coming while playing in the Big West Conference.
The Aggies also improved their tournament record in the 2000s to 15-2 with the win.
Utah State, now 23-7 on the year, used the inside game of post player Nate Harris and the outside game of Carroll and point guard David Pak to hold off Louisiana Tech, which dropped to 20-12. The Aggies won all three games against the Bulldogs this season.
Pak scored 14 points, including nine in the second half, while Harris worked inside for 13 points and seven rebounds. Louisiana Tech was led by Paul Milsap, who scored 18 points on eight of 10 shooting and Trey McDowell, who scored 14 points while making four three-pointers, including three in the second half.
Carroll made five of six free throws in the final :23 seconds as the Aggies held off a late charge by the Bulldogs. USU led 59-50 after a basket by Chris Session at the 3:42 mark, but Louisiana Tech scored seven of the game's next nine points to pull within 63-59 at the 1:19 mark.
However, LTU missed two free throws and a couple of field goal attempts before McDowell made a three-pointer to pull the Bulldogs within 64-62 with :17 left. Carroll then hit two free throws before LTU respnded with a Milsap lay-up to make it 66-64 with :1.6 remaining. Carroll then sealed the game with two more free throws.
In the first half the teams were tied at 16 before USU went on an 8-0 run to lead 24-16. The Aggies then took a 29-25 lead into the locker room as Harris made a 65-foot shot at the buzzer. USU pushed its lead to 40-33 early in the second half while on a 5-0 run.
A 7-0 run late in the game gave the Aggies a 52-43 lead before the Bulldogs rallied to close within two several times before the game ended.
The Aggies out-rebounded LTU 31-30 after getting out-rebounded by the athletic Bulldogs by a combined 23 during two regular season games. USU also hit 20 of 24 free throw attempts in the game and is now 38 of 44 from the line in two tournament games.
USU will meet the winner of the later Nevada vs. New Mexico State game in Saturday's championship game. That game will be televised on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. mountain time.
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