LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Utah State's Jaycee Carroll loves to play in the Pan American Center, and with good reason.
Carroll has scored 86 points in his last three games here, including 24 in Thursday's 73-70 win over Hawai'i in the WAC quarterfinals Thursday afternoon.
The win propelled the Aggies, 22-10, into a semifinal game tonight at 5 against top-seeded Nevada, 28-3. Utah State has now won 22 games in each of the last eight seasons.
Carroll implied that he needed to redeem himself after averaging 12 points in two sub-par efforts against Hawai'i this year.
"The last time I played in Logan, I wasn't happy with my play and didn't attack," said Carroll, who also grabbed 13 rebounds. "Today I was able to move off of screens and get offensive rebounds and played much better."
The Aggies also got a big game from Chaz Spicer, who scored 20 points and grabbed four rebounds. It was Spicer's second consecutive 20-point game.
"I just went out and there and tried to help the team," Spicer said. "I was able to get some open looks and I'm glad we won."
While USU coach Stew Morrill was happy with the offense, he felt defense turned the game in his team's favor.
"Our whole team stepped up in the second half defensively," Morrill said. "We talked about stepping up our energy at halftime and we were able to do it. We won today because we stepped up our defense in the second half."
Hawai'i, after shooting 50 percent in the first half, shot only 30 percent from the field in the second half.
Bobby Nash led Hawai'i with 22 points and Matt Lojeski added 20.
BOISE STATE 78,
FRESNO STATE 73
Fresno State seemed headed for its seventh straight win and another meeting with second-seeded New Mexico State.
The Bulldogs were up 37-23 at the half, and dominating. Then Quinton Hosley made the biggest mistake of his young life. The Fresno star elbowed Coby Karl and was ejected from the game.
Boise State kept chipping away at the halftime deficit, and finally went ahead for good, 70-68, on a 3-pointer by Anthony Thomas with 3:05 left. The Broncos hit four straight free throws to make it 76-70 with 35 seconds left, and the Bulldogs couldn't get any closer than three points the rest of the way.
Players and coaches on both teams knew Hosley's ejection was the turning point.
"I feel it was the right call," BSU coach Greg Graham said. "Anytime you take a player of that caliber it'll have an impact on the game.
"We rebounded better tonight than we did against Hawai'i. I talked to the team about how important it was going to be to get rebounds. Our big guys went to work tonight, and we came together and played well."
Matt Nelson scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Reggie Larry scored 18 points and pulled down 10 boards. Seth Robinson contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"It's always tough when you lose a game when you have complete control of it," FSU coach Steve Cleveland said. "We were playing well and shooting the ball well.
"When Quinton was ejected, it hurt us defensively. We struggled in the post. I know that he (Hosley) feels horrible, but it's a life lesson and he's a young kid and young kids make mistakes. We've just got to move forward."
Cleveland is hopeful the Bulldogs' 22-9 record is good enough for a spot in the NIT.
NEW MEXICO STATE 77,
LA. TECH 70
The second-seeded Aggies continued their success at home with a quarterfinal victory over the seventh-seeded Bulldogs.
NMSU shot 58 percent from the field, connecting on 26-for-45 from the floor compared to 39 percent for Louisiana Tech.
Tyrone Nelson led the Aggies, 23-8, with 26 points. Justin Hawkins added 14 and Shaun Davis contributed 11. Centers Martin Iti contributed nine and Hatila Passos eight for NMSU.
"I think we had a great effort from a lot of people tonight," NMSU coach Reggie Theus said. "Our big guys played well tonight. Normally they try to trap us hard, but they didn't do that, and Tyrone made them pay.
"When a team isn't going to double-team Tyrone, he will make them pay because there is not a team in the conference that can stop him without double-teaming him."
Fifteen of Nelson's points came in the second half, and that enabled the Aggies to keep the lead in double digits in the final 20 minutes.
•Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281