LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The match-up between Utah State's Jaycee Carroll and Nevada's Kyle Shiloh usually plays a big role when the WAC rivals meet, but that isn't expected to be the case tonight.
This is the rubber game of the series tonight (5 p.m.). Nevada beat the Aggies 79-62 in Reno, and Utah State edged Nevada in overtime 79-77 on March 1 in Logan.
The winner advances to Saturday night's championship game at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Shiloh, who strained his left hamstring when he slipped on the WAC logo at center court in Thursday's win over Idaho, probably won't play, and that could present problems for the 10th-ranked Wolf Pack. He has done an exceptional job on Utah State's top scorer.
"The other guy (Lyndale Burleson) is just as good," Carroll said. "He's not quite as tall. Maybe we can call it good news.
"They are a good team. It's going to take a good team effort to beat them."
Shiloh's loss will be felt at the offensive end of the floor, too. He had been averaging over 10 a game in conference play, and he's one of the team's best perimeter shooters. Burleson is known more for his defense, and hasn't scored a whole lot during his Nevada career.
Nevada still has plenty of firepower with All-American Nick Fazekas (21 a game), Marcelus Kemp (18 a game) and Ramon Sessions (13 a game).
"We just played them so their stuff should come back to us quickly," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. "It's a matter of doing our preparation and it will be a big challenge for our team. They are in the top 10, and we're excited to hopefully go out there and play well."
Chaz Spicer, who scored 20 points in the quarterfinal win over Utah State, has been playing well. He gives the Aggies another scoring threat.
"I'm a senior and coming down to my last couple of games of college basketball," Spicer said. "I want to go out and play the best basketball I can to help my team win."
Nevada coach Mark Fox knows he has his hands full tonight.
"Utah State is a great team," Fox said. "They execute well, they shoot the ball well and are great defensively. We are going to have our hands full."
NATE IN THE HOUSE
Former Wolf Pack wide receiver Nate Burleson was in Las Cruces to watch his little brother, Lyndale, play.
"This is the first time I've seen him play since he was in high school," Nate Burleson said. "We talk all the time. I have to make sure he keeps his head straight in college."
Nate Burleson said had Lyndale tried other sports he could have been a three-sport star. He said that Lyndale probably has the best athleticism of all the brothers.
Burleson, who played for the Vikings for several years, signed as a free agent with the hometown Seattle Seahawks prior to last season.
"It was a tough year," said Burleson, who finished with 18 catches for 192 yards and two scores. "I picked up a few more bruises.
"I love it (coming home). Anytime I had the chance to come home I did. It's great playing in front of my family. It's really something."
THUMBS UP FOR LAS CRUCES
Commissioner Karl Benson gave host New Mexico State an A-plus for its hosting of this year's tournament.
"It's a tremendous success," Benson said Thursday night prior to the Boise State-Fresno State game. "The attitude and enthusiasm inside the building has been remarkable. It's the type of environment we've always looked for.
"They set a record for all-session tickets (5,500). That's the most in recent seven or eight years of the event."
Furthermore, if the Aggies play both Friday and Saturday, you can expect capacity crowds.
Nevada coach Mark Fox was named the District 13 Coach of the Year. It's the first time he's won that award.
Fox, who is rumored to be the leading candidate for the job at the University of Minnesota, is one of 15 finalists for the Jim Phelan Award.
Fox has racked up three straight WAC Coach of the Year honors and led Nevada to three straight conference titles. The Wolf Pack are expected to make their third straight NCAA appearance under Fox.
Fresno State's Quinton Hosley was ejected with 17:02 left in the game for throwing an elbow at Boise State's Coby Karl ... Karl's father, George, who coaches the Nuggets, was in attendance ... Utah State is 4-0 in neutral-court games, and is 11-7 all-time in WAC post-season play ... Benson and Fox talked after the game, but while Benson said Shiloh's injury was unfortunate, he wasn't going to be talked into taking the logo off the floor... Carroll has 674 points this year, which ranks fourth all-time in school history behind Wayne Estes (821), Cornell Green (745) and Marvin Roberts (718). Carroll also has 588 career field goals, which is No. 7 in school history.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281