the clock strikes 12 for the Aggies
By Tim Olsen
March 23, 2009 | BOISE, Idaho -- One spot separated
Utah State and Marquette in the rankings heading into
Friday morning's NCAA tournament opening-round game,
with the Golden Eagles holding that advantage.
Marquette again had an advantage of one at the end
of the game, as they held off the upset-minded Aggies,
"That was obviously a tough loss. We gave ourselves
a chance, we got up six and we missed some open shots,
we turned it over, we don't rebound a ball, all of those
things that can happen to you," USU coach Stew
Morrill said. "But we battled back in the second
half and really gave ourselves a chance to win. . .
. I can't be any prouder of a basketball team than I
am of this group."
The Aggies played their most competitive post-season
game since pulling a first-round upset in the 2001 NCAA
tournament, but in the end, the slipper was just a little
After a weekend of great starts in Reno, the Aggies
started ice-cold in Boise. USU missed its first three
shots from the floor and shot a meager 30 percent in
the first half.
"We weren't really ready for their pressure,
they were kind of taking us out of our offense,"
said Aggie forward Tai Wesley. "I think our defense
was real good, it was right where it needed to be .
. . just came out slow in the first half offensively."
Wesley struggled in the first half as he was only
2-of-5 from the floor and was again hampered by fouls.
He did respond in the second half, however, knocking
down 5-of-6 shots and scoring 11 of his 15 points.
"We were stunned by their athleticism and pressure
initially in the game," said USU head coach Stew
Morrill. "We had a really hard time executing because
. . . (of) their quickness and strength and those kind
Despite one of their worst first halves of the season,
the Aggies were able to build a little momentum heading
into the break as they outscored the Golden Eagles 5-0
over the final 2:30.
Heading into the intermission, Marquette held a 26-18
advantage in the low-scoring affair.
Marquette opened the second half with a Maurice Acker
three-pointer to extend the lead back to 11, but that
was the last double-digit lead they would have. Wesley
looking like a completely different player sparked
the Aggies on a 10-0 run that cut the deficit to one,
29-28, with 16:10 still to play.
"We knew we could play with Marquette, so we just
needed to really settle down," Wesley said. "We knew
we could get back into the game. We battled back from
deficits like that before, so we just needed to be patient
and grind it out."
After a Golden Eagle timeout, Marquette pushed the
lead back to five, but the Aggies weren't going to let
the Big East power pull away again. Wesley was fouled
on a layup at the 12:09 mark and completed the old-fashioned
three-point play to knot the game at 33.
Marquette continued to hold the lead for the next
six minutes until a three-pointer by junior Jared Quayle
gave the Aggies their first lead of the game, 46-43,
with 5:18 to play. Moments later swingman Tyler Newbold
connected on his only shot of the game a three-pointer
to give the Ags a six-point lead, their biggest of
Quayle was a bright spot for USU as he finished with
a team-high 18 points and knocked down 4-of-8 from beyond
the arc. He also pulled down a game-high eight rebounds,
but fouled out for the first time this season with only
1:45 left in the game.
"It was the first time I fouled out all year long
and I didn't even mean to foul him at the end," Quayle
said. "I was just trying to get back to my man."
As well as knocking down 12 of their first 20 shots
of the second half, the Aggies were aided by a good
zone defense that threw off the Golden Eagles' rhythm.
"The zones obviously tend to slow you down and
to pull you down and I told our team at half time I
anticipated that they would play the entire half in
zone," said Marquette Coach Buzz Williams. "I
just thought that that's what they were going to try
to do to try to slow the game down and we did not attack
it with pace."
With the Aggie faithful on their feet and the Taco
Bell Arena rocking, things looked good for USU, but
the Golden Eagles responded.
Led by forward Lazar Hayward Marquette clamped down
on defense and chipped away at the Aggie lead by making
10 straight foul shots in the final few minutes. Hayward
finished with a game high 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
Shortly after Quayle fouled out, so did Wesley, and
Marquette regained the lead for good.
In the final 1:30 the Golden Eagles survived two wide-open
Newbold three-point shots that missed, a banked-in three
by Pooh Williams with 18 seconds left, and an attempt
at a three by Gary Wilkinson that would've tied the
game with six second left. It looked good but fell just
"It's a play that we have at the end of, you know,
to get a shot like that," said Wilkinson who finished
with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. "It felt good coming
off and it was right on, it was just short. That's just
the way the ball bounces, I suppose."
The loss marked the ninth straight post-season loss
for the Ags and snapped a 57-game winning streak when
holding an opponent under 60 points.