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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD


The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Forget me not: Nevada reminds Aggies of the significance of Reno

By Tim Olsen

March 1, 2009 | USU locked up its first outright conference championship Thursday as a member of the WAC, but Saturday night the Aggies were reminded by Nevada that the title -- and possibly a slot in the NCAA tournament -- run through Reno.

The Wolf Pack erupted in the first half and built a lead too high for USU to overcome as they knocked off the first-place Aggies, 84-71.

"They came out and they were ready," said USU head coach Stew Morrill in a post-game radio interview. "They had a great crowd, great atmosphere. They threw in six threes in a hurry -- bang, bang, bang -- and we were playing uphill from then on out."

Behind a pair of former McDonald's All-Americans, the home team used a 29-7 run during a 10-minute stretch of the first half to blow open a close game and take a 23-point lead, 41-18, with 4:33 to play.

"We just didn't show up to play," said junior Jared Quayle in a post-game radio interview. "We're just going to have to get back to practice, and get back to our roots and get back to our defensive ways."

Nevada's Armon Johnson was especially deadly during the run, hitting shot after shot. Johnson finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting in 34 minutes of action.

"He made some amazing shots," Quayle said. "He's a great player and he was just hitting shots tonight."

Despite nearly being blown out early, the Aggies were able to respond with a run of their own. A pair of threes by Jaxon Myaer and Tyler Newbold helped USU outscore the Wolf Pack 14-6 over the final five minutes of the half to cut the lead to 15.

After such a rough start, the Aggies came out of the locker room determined to show Nevada why Utah State was the No. 1 team in the conference. On USU's first possession, Newbold connected on his second three of the night, cutting the deficit to 12.

As the half wore on, the Aggies continued to chip away at Nevada's lead. With 14 minutes left to play, sophomore Pooh Williams found player of the year candidate Gary Wilkinson for an easy basket that pulled the Ags within 11.

Then things really got interesting.

Morrill was hit with his first technical foul of the season when freshman Brady Jardine was whistled for his fourth foul of the game. The call was questionable at best, and sent the bespectacled Morrill looking for some answers.

"I probably deserved it," Morrill quipped. "That's the first 'T' I've had all year, and I've probably deserved four or five."

When the dust settled, Nevada's Luke Babbitt was awarded four consecutive free throws -- two for being fouled on the shot, and two for the technical. He connected on all four, and the Wolf Pack lead was pushed back to 17.

Babbitt spent an awful lot of time at the charity stripe during the game, connecting on 10-of-11 free throws. He finished with 21 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

"I felt like they were protecting Babbitt and he was getting Michael Jordan type calls," Morrill said. "But, I'm trying to view it from that far away and I could very well be wrong. . . . If I'm an official, I'd probably 'T' me too."

Despite that unfortunate turn for the Aggies, they weren't about to roll over and die, and they battled back again. Myaer connected on his second three-pointer of the game with 8:38 remaining, and the Ags found themselves within eight, 63-55.

Twice during the next few minutes USU was able to pull within seven, the last on an authoritative dunk by Wilkinson in which he was fouled and completed the old fashioned three-point play. But, that's as close as the Ags would get.

In the end the Aggies had exerted too much energy playing catch-up, and were unable to maintain their energy and intensity down the stretch as Nevada held on for the win.

"There's no excuse for how we played in the first half, we just came out sluggish," Quayle said. "I felt like we played better in the second half, but it was a little too late."

A trio of scorers in double figures led the Aggies as Wilkinson finished with 16 points, Quayle 12 and sophomore Tai Wesley 10. Wesley quietly had a good night statistically, as he pulled 10 rebounds and dished out seven assists to come up just shy of a triple-double.

USU will now have a full week off before returning home for its last regular-season game. The Aggies will play host Saturday to San Jose State as they look to stay unbeaten at home and grab some momentum before heading into the conference tournament.

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