March 9, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A ferocious second-half comeback came up just short as the second-seeded Utah State women's basketball team dropped a heartbreaker to third-seeded Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, 73-69, Friday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.
Trailing by as many as 12 points in the second half, the Aggies were able to chisel away at the Louisiana Tech lead. With 31 seconds remaining in the game, a three-point play by senior guard Brooke Jackson was able to cut the lead to 71-69, but USU was not able to get any closer as the Lady Techsters held on for the win.
Louisiana Tech will advance to their third-straight WAC Tournament championship game. The Lady Techsters will take on the winner of the game between top-seeded Fresno State and fourth-seeded Idaho.
With the loss, Utah State falls to 21-9 with Louisiana Tech improving to 17-14 with the win.
Utah State got a stellar game from senior forward Ashlee Brown who recorded her 12th double-double of the season with a game-high 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. She also added four assists and career-high four blocks in the loss. Jackson added 12 points and four boards in the loss, while junior guard Devyn Christensen and sophomore guard Jennifer Schlott both scored 10 points.
Louisiana Tech was led by 21 points and four assists from Jasmine Bendolph. Angie Felton scored 19 points. The Aggies were able to hold Shantale Bramble-Donaldson to only six points.
This is the third time in the last four seasons that USU has reached the semifinals of the WAC Tournament and the first time it has lost to the Lady Techsters. The Aggies have to two semifinal losses to Fresno State in 2009 and 2011. Utah State has fallen to the eventual champion the last three seasons.
Both teams started hot from beyond the arc with both making two quick threes. After a Brown old-fashioned three-point play USU jumped out to an early 11-8 lead. Defensively, the Aggies were strong with two steals and forcing to two turnovers in the first four minutes of action.
Bendolph's second three of the game tied the score at 16-16 with less than 13 minutes left in the first half. Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 22-18 lead after a jumper by Tavasha Anderson. With 10:58 on the clock, a pair of Schlott free throw cut the lead to 22-20 with 10 minutes left in the half.
A pair of Brown free throws and a lay up by freshman center Franny Vaaulu gave the Aggies the lead back 24-23 with 6:52 left in the half. Four-straight points from Brown gave USU a 30-25 advantage.
After forcing a couple Aggie turnovers, the Lady Techsters scored four-straight point to re-take the lead 33-31 with 1:19 left in the first stanza. A Bendolph trey extended Louisiana Tech's lead to 36-31 which was its biggest of the half.
In the first half, Utah State was led by a solid 13 points and nine rebounds from Brown. Christensen added eight points, two rebounds and two steals in the first half. Off the bench, Schlott score six points with two assists.
Louisiana Tech had three players with at least eight points in the first half, Bendolph hit three treys for nine points. Whitney Frazier and Felton both scored eight for the Lady Techsters who shot 44.4 percent in the first half.
The Lady Techsters came out strong in the second half with quick threes from Bendolph and Felton. With 17:36 left in the game, Louisiana Tech jumped out to a 46-39 lead after two free throws from Bramble-Donaldson.
Louisiana Tech used a 14-6 run to start the second half to take 50-39 second-half lead with 16:32 left in the game. The Lady Techsters continued their strong second half, taking a 60-48 lead after a Bendolph jumper.
The Aggies did not give up scoring six-straight point to cut the lead to 64-58 with 4:05 left in the game. A pair of free throws by Schlott followed by a hard-fought basket by Vaaulu trimmed the lead to 66-62 with 2:23 left in the game and forcing a Louisiana Tech time out.
Utah State was able to cut it to four points twice in the final two minutes. A three-point play by Jackson pulled the Aggies to within two 71-69 with 31.1 second remaining. Utah State would not be able to get any closer with LTU closing out the 73-69 win.
Utah State ended the game, shooting 25-of-63 (39.7 percent) from the floor. The Aggies were 3-of-14 from three-point range (21.4 percent), while shooting 16-of-17 (94.1 percent) from the charity stripe. Louisiana Tech was 25-of-63 (49.1 percent) from the field, going 7-of-17 from three (41.0 percent). The Lady Techsters were 14-of-16 (87.5 percent) from the free throw line.
The Aggies now await the announcements of the NCAA and Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) brackets on Monday, March 12.
Fans can follow USU women's basketball at http://twitter.com/UTAHSTATEofmind and Utah State athletics at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics.
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