Aggies And Wolf Pack Play For WAC Championship Saturday Night On ESPN2
No. 1 seeded Utah State (29-4, 14-2) will play second-seeded Nevada (21-11, 11-5) in the championship game of the 2009 WAC Tournament on Saturday, Mar. 14 at 8:00 p.m. (MT) on ESPN2.
 
No. 1 seeded Utah State (29-4, 14-2) will play second-seeded Nevada (21-11, 11-5) in the championship game of the 2009 WAC Tournament on Saturday, Mar. 14 at 8:00 p.m. (MT) on ESPN2.
 
 

March 14, 2009

RENO, Nev. -

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Game 34
#1 Utah State (29-4) vs. #2 Nevada (21-11)
Saturday, Mar. 14, 2009 * 8 p.m. (MT) * Reno, Nev.
Lawlor Events Center (11,536) * Aggie Radio Network * ESPN2

GAME DAY HEADLINES
• Utah State (29-4) has the second-most wins in the nation this year behind only Memphis (30-3). USU is also one of just five teams in the nation with four or fewer losses joining Connecticut (27-4), Memphis, North Carolina (28-3), and Pittsburgh (28-4).

• Utah State, Gonzaga (26-5) and Kansas (25-6) are the only teams in the nation to win at least 23 games in each of the last 10 years. USU has now recorded 10 straight 20-win seasons, extending its current school record. Overall, it is the 25th time in school history that Utah State has won 20 or more games and its 29 wins this year is school record besting the 2000 and 2001 USU teams that each finished with 28-6 records.

• Utah State is playing in the championship game of the WAC Tournament for the third time in its four years in the league and for the eighth time in its last 10 years when counting its time in the Big West Conference. USU is looking for its seventh tournament championship as it won six postseason titles in 27 years as a member of the Big West Conference. Under head coach Stew Morrill, Utah State has won four tournament championships (2000, 2001, 2003, 2005).

• Utah State is playing in the championship game of its conference tournament for the 12th time in school history and is 6-5 in its previous 11 appearances. USU has lost its last two championship games as it lost at Nevada, 70-63 in overtime, in the 2006 WAC Tournament and at New Mexico State, 72-70, in the 2007 WAC Tournament.

• Utah State is now 34-24 (.586) all-time in conference tournaments, which includes a 7-3 (.700) record in the WAC Tournament. Over the last 10 years, Utah State has posted a 20-5 (.800) record in conference tournament play and is 20-6 (.769) in conference tournaments under Morrill. Overall, Morrill is 27-17 (.614) in tournament play.

• Utah State is 16-9 (.640) against current members of the WAC in tournament play, which includes a 3-1 record against Nevada. The last time the two teams faced one another in the postseason was when Utah State upset ninth-ranked Nevada, 79-77, in the semifinals of the 2007 WAC Tournament. The only time the two teams have played in a championship game prior to this year was in the 2006 WAC Tournament in Reno, with UN winning in overtime, 70-63. USU also defeated Nevada in the semifinals of the 2000 Big West Tournament in Reno, 69-64, as well as in the quarterfinals of the 1996 Big West Tournament, 70-65.

• Utah State is 2-1 (.667) in championship games as the No. 1 seed and 11-5 (.688) as the top seed in eight postseason tournaments. The last time the top seed won the WAC Tournament was in 2006 when Nevada defeated Utah State.

UP NEXT
No. 1 seeded Utah State (29-4, 14-2) will play second-seeded Nevada (21-11, 11-5) in the championship game of the 2009 WAC Tournament on Saturday, Mar. 14 at 8:00 p.m. (MT) on ESPN2.

LOOKING AT UTAH STATE
Utah State is 29-4 on the season following its 71-70 come-from-behind win against New Mexico State in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament. USU also defeated Fresno State, 85-68, in the quarterfinals. Utah State is led by senior forward Gary Wilkinson who is averaging 17.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and is shooting 59.1 percent from the field and 83.2 percent from the free throw line, while junior guard Jared Quayle is averaging 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists, and is shooting 45.8 percent from the field, 38.0 percent from three-point range, and 77.6 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore forward Tai Wesley is also scoring in double-figures for USU as he is averaging 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, and is shooting 59.3 percent from the field and 68.3 percent from the free throw line. As a team, Utah State is scoring 72.9 points per game and shooting 49.8 percent from the field, 39.9 percent from three-point range, and 74.1 percent from the free throw line. Defensively, USU is allowing 62.1 points and its opponents are shooting 42.5 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from three-point range, and 73.3 percent from the free throw line.

UTAH STATE LEADING THE NATION IN FIELD GOAL SHOOTING
Utah State is once again leading the nation in field goal shooting at 49.8 percent, while UCLA is second in the nation at 49.4 percent. USU also led the nation in field goal shooting last year at 51.4 percent, as well as leading the nation in free throw shooting at 79.2 percent.

UTAH STATE ON NEUTRAL COURTS
Utah State is 2-1 this season on neutral courts as it lost to Brigham Young, 68-63, on Dec. 6, 2008 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah and defeated Fresno State, 85-68, in the quarterfinals and New Mexico State, 71-70, in the semifinals of the 2009 WAC Tournament. Under head coach Stew Morrill, USU is 32-15 (.681) when it plays on a neutral court.

UTAH STATE LIGHTING IT UP FROM BEHIND THE ARC
Utah State has been on fire as of late from three-point range as it has shot at least 40 percent from behind the arc nine times in its last 14 games. During its last 14 games, Utah State is shooting 43.3 percent (100-231) from behind the arc.

UTAH STATE TRENDS
Utah State is 22-0 on the season when leading at the half... USU is 24-0 when it shoots better from the field than its opponent... USU is 22-0 when it commits fewer fouls than its opponent... USU is 20-0 when its starting backcourt outscores its opponent's starting backcourt... USU is 15-0 when it has more steals than its opponent... USU is 13-0 when it commits fewer turnovers than its opponent... USU is 10-0 when it blocks more shots than its opponent.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS DURING ITS LAST FIVE GAMES
Utah State is 4-1 in its last five games and is scoring 79.6 points per game, while shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 41.7 percent from three-point range, and 76.8 percent from the free throw line. Defensively, its opponents are scoring 72.2 points and shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 43.6 percent from three-point range, and 70.5 percent from the free throw line.

COMPUTER RANKINGS
As of Mar. 14, Utah State has an RPI of 25 and a strength of schedule of 141, while the WAC is currently ranked 11th out of 32 conferences. USU also has a sagarin rating of 42.

UTAH STATE IN THE WAC TOURNAMENT
In two games at the WAC Tournament, Utah State is averaging 78.0 points and shooting 49.5 percent from the field, 48.6 percent from three-point range, and 81.8 percent from the free throw line. Defensively, USU is allowing 69.0 points and its opponents are shooting 46.4 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three-point range, 60.7 percent from the free throw line.

RECAPPING THE NEW MEXICO STATE GAME
Sophomore guard Tyler Newbold hit a 12-foot baseline jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining to complete Utah State's improbable comeback from a 13-point halftime deficit as it defeated New Mexico State, 71-70, Friday night in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament. Trailing 70-69 with eight seconds to play, sophomore guard Pooh Williams inbounded the ball to sophomore forward Tai Wesley who drove to the basket and passed it to a wide open Newbold whose shot hit the rim and the backboard before dropping in with just over three seconds remaining. NMSU's Jahmar Young's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer didn't even hit the rim to preserve the comeback win for USU. Senior forward and WAC Player of the Year Gary Wilkinson scored a game-high 19 points for Utah State, while Wesley had 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Williams also scored in double-figures for USU as he had all 13 of his points after the first 20 minutes. Jonathan Gibson scored 16 points to lead New Mexico State, but had just two in the second-half as he was 5-of-7 from the field in the first 20 minutes and 1-of-6 in the second 20 minutes. Jahmar Young added 15 points and Troy Gillenwater scored 12. Utah State began the game much like it did in the quarterfinals as it made its first seven shots and scored on its first eight possessions to build a quick 17-7 advantage. USU maintained its advantage and led 23-14 following a jumper from sophomore forward Matt Formisano with 10:25 play. That, however, is when NSMU caught fire from three-point range and made eight straight three-pointers and out-scored USU 33-11 over the final 9:16 of the first-half to take a 47-34 lead into the break. In the first-half, New Mexico State shot a blistering 60.7 percent from the field (17-28) and 72.7 percent from the three-point range (8-11). USU shot 44.8 percent (13-29), including 33.3 percent from behind the arc (3-9) as Wesley had nine points at the break and Wilkinson eight. Utah State charged out of the locker room in the second-half as it used a 13-3 run to cut the lead to three at 50-47 with 15:17 to play. NMSU, however, kept USU at bay for much of the half as its lead fluctuated back and forth from eight to two points over the next 10 minutes. Utah State closed to within two points at 61-59 on a layup from Formisano, but New Mexico State answered with a 7-1 run that Young capped with a three-pointer to give the fifth-seed a 68-60 lead with 5:17 to play. USU then clamped down on defense and allowed just one basket during the final 5:17 as it finished the game on an 11-2 run to notch the win. During that stretch, NMSU was 1-of-6 from the field, including 0-of-1 from the free throw line as Hernst Laroche missed the front-end of a one-and-one with 32 seconds to play. Following the missed free throw, NMSU's Gibson grabbed the offensive rebound, but Newbold tied him up and the possession arrow gave the ball to USU for the final shot. Utah State finished the game by shooting 46.3 percent from the field (25-54), 31.3 percent from three-point range (5-16), and 84.2 percent from the free throw line (16-19). New Mexico State shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the second-half (10-30), including just 1-of-8 (.125) from behind the arc and finished the game by shooting 46.6 percent overall (27-58) and 47.4 percent from three (9-19). USU also out-rebounded NMSU, 35-29.

NOTE-ABLES FROM THE NEW MEXICO STATE GAME
Utah State improved to 6-4 on the season when trailing at the half... USU shot under 50 percent from the field for the 14th time this year... USU's five made three-pointers and 16 attempts are its fewest in its last five games... The seven made free throws and 11 attempts by NMSU are the fewest by a USU opponent in its last nine games.

UTAH STATE RALLIES FROM 13-POINTS DOWN AT THE BREAK TO WIN
Utah State rallied from 13 points down at halftime to defeat New Mexico State, 71-70, Friday night. USU's previous season-best comeback from a halftime deficit this year was eight points against Houston Baptist. It is also USU's largest halftime comeback since it rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit against Northwestern State on Feb. 18, 2006 in Logan.

UTAH STATE IN MARCH
Utah State is 36-18 (.667) in March under Coach Morrill, which includes a 20-6 (.769) record on neutral courts. USU is also 1-3 (.250) all-time in known games played on Mar. 14, and 102-39 (.723) in games played on Saturday under Morrill, which includes a 9-4 record this year.

UTAH STATE IN LAWLOR EVENTS CENTER
Utah State is 17-12 (.586) all-time in the Lawlor Events Center, which includes a 13-4 (.765) record in tournament play. This is the seventh time that Utah State has played at the Lawlor Events Center in either the WAC or Big West Tournament and it has won two tournament championships (1998, 2000) and played in two other championship games (1996, 2006). The last time USU played a postseason tournament at the Lawlor Events Center was during the 2006 WAC Tournament as it lost to Nevada, 70-63 OT, in the championship game. Overall, USU has won seven of its last eight tournament games played at the Lawlor Events Center.

WILKINSON SCORES 1,000 POINTS
Senior forward Gary Wilkinson became the 33rd Aggie in school history to score 1,000 points on a pair of free throws early in the second half against Fresno State. Wilkinson now has 1,029 points in his career to rank 30th all-time in school history and is now 20 points shy of tying Vince Washington (1984-85) for 29th-place all-time with 1,049 career points. This season, Wilkinson has scored 562 points to rank 21st all-time at USU in scoring for a single-season.

NEWBOLD LEADING THE NATION IN ASSIST-TO-TURNOVER RATIO
Sophomore guard Tyler Newbold is currently leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 4.12-to-1.00. On the season, Newbold has 107 assists and just 26 turnovers. During his last three games he has 14 assists and just one turnover.

PLAYER NOTES
#5 Pooh Williams - Averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 assists in his last four games, while shooting 63.0 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from three-point range and is a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line.

#14 Stavon Williams - Averaging 8.4 points during his last seven games, while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from three-point range... His six made three-pointers against Fresno State is the most by any Utah State player this year.

#21 Jared Quayle - Has scored in double-figures in seven of his last nine games... In his last five games, he is averaging 13.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists, while shooting 42.6 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from three-point range, and 92.9 percent from the free throw line... His eight rebounds against Fresno State where his most in his last 11 games.. Has made 12 straight free throws.

#22 Brady Jardine - Averaging 3.7 rebounds in his last three games.

#24 Tyler Newbold - In his last seven games he has 31 assists and five turnovers, including 14 assists and one turnovers in his last three games... Has made seven of his last 13 three-pointers... Averaging 9.2 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds during his last five games, while shooting 42.9 percent from the field, 44.0 percent from three-point range, and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.

#25 Jaxon Myaer - Has scored in 14 straight games and is averaging 3.8 points during his last five games, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three-point range, and 80.0 percent from the free throw line.

#42 Tai Wesley - Averaging 11.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists during his last five games, while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 73.9 percent from the free throw line.

#44 Matt Formisano - His 20 minutes played against Fresno State were his most in his last 19 games... Averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds during his last five games, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field.

#55 Gary Wilkinson - Has scored in double-figures in six straight games and in 11 of his last 12 overall... During his last five games, he is averaging 18.6 points and shooting 62.3 percent from the field.

SCOUTING NEVADA
Nevada is 21-11 on the season after defeating San Jose State (78-69) and Louisiana Tech (77-68) in the first two rounds of the WAC Tournament. The Wolf Pack, who have won five straight games and eight of its last nine overall, finished in second-place in the WAC during the regular season with an 11-5 league record. Nevada, who is 13-6 at home this year, is led by freshman forward Luke Babbitt who is averaging 17.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard Armon Johnson is averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 assists per game. As a team, Nevada is scoring 70.7 points per game and shooting 43.2 percent from the field, 29.9 percent from three-point range, and 74.1 percent from the free throw line. Defensively, UNR is allowing 65.6 points and its opponents are shooting 41.5 percent from the field, 34.9 percent from three-point range, and 66.9 percent from the free throw line. The Wolf Pack returns two starters and seven letterwinners from last year's team that went 21-12 overall and tied for first-place in the WAC with a 12-4 league record. Mark Fox is 122-41 in his fifth year as Nevada's head coach.

USU VS. NEVADA RIVALRY ONE OF THE OLDEST IN SCHOOL HISTORY
Utah State and Nevada will be playing for the 40th time Saturday in what is the 19th-oldest rivalry in school history. USU's first game against UNR was during the 1935-36 season.

UTAH STATE-NEVADA SERIES
Utah State and Nevada will be meeting for the 40th time on Saturday with the Aggies owning a 27-12 advantage, which includes a 10-10 road record. Overall, USU has won nine of the last 14 games played in the series, including four of the last six. USU split the season series with Nevada as it won in Logan, 72-61, and lost in Reno, 84-71. Stew Morrill is 16-12 all-time against Nevada, which includes a 9-6 record at Utah State.

DID YOU KNOW?
The home team has won the last seven meetings between Utah State and Nevada. Prior to that, the road team won four straight games.

LAST MEETING AGAINST THE WOLF PACK
Armon Johnson scored a game-high 28 points and Luke Babbitt added 21 to lead Nevada past Utah State, 84-71, on Feb. 28 in Reno. Senior forward Gary Wilkinson led Utah State with 16 points, while sophomore forward Tai Wesley recorded his third double-double of the season and fifth of his career with 10 points and a season-high tying 10 rebounds. Wesley also had a game-high seven assists. Junior guard Jared Quayle also scored in double-figures for USU and finished the game with 12 points and six boards, while sophomore guard Pooh Williams had nine points and five assists. Nevada jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead before Utah State closed to within 12-11 on a jumper from sophomore forward Matt Formisano. The Wolf Pack then went on a 29-7 run over the next 10:13 to build a 41-18 advantage with 4:33 to play. USU then went on a 12-3 run to get within 14 at 44-30 and had a chance to get within 12, but missed the front-end of a one-an-one. Following a three-point play from Babbitt, Wilkinson hit a pair of free throws to make the half-time score 47-32. Sophomore guard Tyler Newbold hit a three-pointer to start the second-half for USU to cut the margin to 12, but Nevada then scored six straight points to increase its advantage to 18. USU quickly responded with a 7-0 run to get within 11 at 53-42 following a three-pointer from junior guard Stavon Williams and later got within seven at 66-59 on a layup from Pooh Williams with 6:59 to play. However, that was as close as the Aggies would get and eventually lost by 13. Utah State finished the game by shooting 45.1 percent from the field (23-51), 38.1 percent from three-point range (8-21), and 77.3 percent from the free throw line (17-22). Nevada shot 51.0 percent for the game (26-51), including 40.0 percent from behind the arc (6-15), and 78.8 percent from the free throw line (26-33). UN also out-rebounded USU, 31-30, while USU had eight more assists (19-11). Johnson led Nevada with 14 first-half points, while Babbitt had 13 as the Wolf Pack shot 50.0 percent from the field (15-30) and 54.5 percent from three-point range (6-11). Wesley paced Utah State with six first-half points as the Aggies shot 47.8 percent overall (11-23), including 33.3 percent from behind the arc (3-9).

 

 

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