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
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
"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
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
"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
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.