March 19, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - Jaycee Carroll led a quarter of Utah State players in double-figures with a game-high 15 points, but it wasn't enough as Illinois State recorded a 61-57 opening round NIT win here Wednesday night. Utah State finishes the season with a 24-11 record, while Illinois State improves to 25-9.
Carroll also had six rebounds and five assists for Utah State, while Gary Wilkinson added 12 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. USU also got 22 points from its bench as Stephen DuCharme and Pooh Williams each added 10 points.
Osiris Eldridge paced Illinois State with 14 points, six assists and five rebounds, while Dinma Odiakosa had 11 points and six rebounds.
Utah State battled back from an 11-point second-half deficit and had the ball down two at 59-57 with under a minute to play, but Carroll missed a three-pointer from the right corner that would have given USU its first lead since the 19:04 mark of the first half. Eldridge then hit two free throws with 14 seconds to play to seal the win for ISU.
Kris Clark scored the first four points of the game for Utah State as the Aggies led 2-0 and 4-3 before Illinois State scored six straight points. USU got within one at 9-8 on a layup by Wilkinson and later tied the game at 14 on a jumper by DuCharme, before the home team hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to take a 23-14 led with 9:54 to play in the first-half. Utah State chipped away at the lead and got within three at 26-23 only to see ISU end the half on a 8-2 run to take a 34-25 advantage into the locker room.
In the first-half, Illinois State made 7-of-12 (583) three-pointers as compared to just 1-of-5 (.200) for Utah State. USU also committed 12 first-half turnovers.
Utah State scored the first five points of the second-half to get within four, but Illinois State responded with a 7-0 run to quickly push the margin back to 11. USU fought back and got within one at 49-48 on an old-fashioned three-point play from Wilkinson, but then committed back-to-back turnovers on its next two possessions as the Redbirds extended its lead back to five.
With Illinois State leading 59-52 with 3:51 to play, Utah State made one final push as Carroll scored five straight points on a three-pointer from the top of the key and a runner in the lane to get the visitors with two with just over a minute to play.
Utah State finished the game by shooting just 44.9 percent from the field (22-49) and were just 4-13 (.308) from behind the arc. Illinois State shot 40.4 percent overall (23-57), but made 9-of-23 (.391) three-pointers. USU did out-rebounded ISU, 36-27, but the Aggies also committed seven more turnovers (18-11) in the game.
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