March 14, 2010
RENO, Nev. - Jahmar Young scored 19 points, including 12 in the second half, to lead New Mexico State to a 69-63 win against Utah State in the championship game of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament held here Saturday night.
Utah State, who had won 17-straight games, falls to 27-7 on the season with the loss, while New Mexico State improves to 22-11 with the win.
Utah State was playing in its fourth WAC Tournament championship game in its five years in the league, but is now just 1-3 in those title contests.
Senior guard Jared Quayle led Utah State with a game-high 25 points, while junior forward Tai Wesley recorded his third double-double of the season with 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds despite breaking his nose in the first minute of the game. Fellow junior forward Nate Bendall added 16 points and five rebounds.
Utah State led 51-46 with 8:06 to play in the game following a layup from Wesley before New Mexico State went on a 9-2 run to take a 55-53 lead. Following a pair of free throws from Wesley, NMSU's Troy Gillenwater hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to start an 8-2 run and USU could get no closer than four points the rest of the game as New Mexico State scored on 12 of its final 13 possessions.
Utah State finished the game by shooting 45.5 percent from the field (25-55) and 69.2 percent at the free throw line (9-13), but made just 25.0 percent of its three-pointers (4-16). New Mexico State shot 49.2 percent overall, including 72.7 percent at the free throw line (8-11), and was 3-of-11 (.273) from behind the arc.
Utah State jumped out to an early 8-4 lead and led for the majority of the first half until a pair of free throws from Jonathan Gibson gave New Mexico State its first lead of the game at 19-18 with 6:23 to play. NMSU increased its margin to four at 25-21 following a layup from Gillenwater before Quayle scored five straight points to give USU a one-point lead at 26-25. Young then hit a three-pointer in transition with 1:35 to play and NMSU took a 28-26 lead into the locker room.
Utah State shot just 37.5 percent in the first half (9-24) and was just 2-of-9 (.222) from three-point range, but did make 75.0 percent of its free throws (6-8). Quayle led USU with 14 points during the first 20 minutes, while Bendall had eight.
New Mexico State shot just 36.7 percent in the first half (11-30) and just 16.7 percent from behind the arc (1-6), but was 5-of-6 (.833) at the free throw line. NMSU also forced USU into six first-half turnovers.
Utah State will now wait and see if it receives at an-large berth to the NCAA Tournament.
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