WAC Tournament Semifinals WrapupPosted by rtmsf on March 14th, 2009
The semifinal games featured the top two seeds Utah State and Nevada taking on the five and six seeds New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. NM State and La. Tech were attempting to become the lowest seeds to ever face each other in the conference tournament finals. It was not to be however as both Utah State and Nevada held serve. Utah State defeated New Mexico State on a baseline jumper by Tyler Newbold with 3.1 seconds remaining to propel Utah State to the title game. Nevada meanwhile overcame an early first half deficit of 10 points to pull away from La. Tech 77-68.
In the first semifinal Utah State jumped out to an early nine point lead at 23-14 with 10:25 remaining in the first half. However, New Mexico State would go on a tear from downtown. The black-clad Aggies buried eight straight three point attempts to storm into halftime with a 47-34 lead. The Aggies outscored Utah State 33-11 over the final 9:16 of the first half and buried 11 of their final 12 shots to end the half. The second half was a different story for NM State. Utah State cut the lead to just three within the first five minutes of the game outscoring New Mexico State 13-3 during that stretch. New Mexico State would stabilize itself and build the lead up to to eight points with 5:17 remaining in the game. Utah State would make one final push. Up by one point with 30 seconds left in the game New Mexico State freshman point guard Hernst missed the front end of a one-and-one, his teammate Jonathan Gibson grabbed the rebound and looked like he was going to be fouled. Instead he was tied up by Utah State’s Tyler Newbold, possession arrow belonged to the . Utah State missed a short jumped with nine seconds remaining but the ball went out of bounds of New Mexico State with six seconds left in the game. Utah State inbounded the ball and Newbold, came off a screen and found himself wide open for a baseline jumper. The ball bounced on the side of the rim and bounced in with 3.1 seconds remaining giving Utah State a one point lead at 71-70. New Mexico State’s prayer at the buzzer went unanswered and top seeded Utah State escaped with a victory.
The second semifinal saw two teams have blistering halves. The first half belonged to Louisiana Tech as they shot 55.6% from the field and held a four point 35-31 lead at the break. The second half saw homestanding Nevada take the lead for the first time in the second half at the free throw line and Armon Johnson with 24 points and six rebounds. He also tallied six assists.mark. They would never look back. Nevada shot a whitehot 69.2% from the floor hitting 18 of 26 shots from the floor en route to a nine point 77-68 victory. Louisiana Tech got outstanding performances from Magnum Rolle, 24 points and five rebounds and Kyle Gibson, 25 points and five rebounds. For Nevada it was Luke Babbit with 23 points and six rebounds and a perfect 7 of 7 from the
The championship game features the top two seeds for the first time since the 2006 WAC Tournament. It’s only happened nine other times in the 25 year history of the WAC tournament: 2004, 2002, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1991, 1989, 1986 and 1985. The WAC tournament is traditionally held on campus and the host teams have played in the title game 14 times and sport an 8-6 record in those championship games. Nevada, this year’s host, was also the host in 2006 and defeated Utah State 70-63 in overtime. The following season New Mexico State was the host and defeated Utah State 72-70. This is Utah State’s third trip to the WAC tournament final in its four seasons in the WAC. Nevada is making its first championship game appearance since that 2006 final.