LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Wins in the WAC Tournament have been few and far between for San Jose State.
The Spartans, whose first-ever tournament win came in 2002 against Rice, outlasted Louisiana Tech, 64-62, Tuesday night in an opening round game at the Pan American Center.
The win sends the Spartans, 13-18, into a match-up with top-seeded Utah State at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday.
As the score indicated, this one went down to the wire. There were nine ties and 14 lead changes. The biggest lead of the game was six points by San Jose State, and that was in the first half.
In the end, San Jose State's inside game won out over Tech's perimeter prowess. Tech drained a season-best 12 3-pointers against San Jose State's 2-3 zone.
Free throws by Tim Pierce and Justin Graham snapped a 62-all tie and gave the Spartans a 64-62 lead with 21 seconds left.
San Jose State had two fouls to give, and Jamon Hill fouled with 5.1 left. Dwayne Lathan drove the lane and missed from point-blank range. Orren Tims tried to follow the shot in at the buzzer and missed.
"I want to give Louisiana Tech a lot of credit," SJSU coach George Nessman said. "They are a heck of a team and showed a lot of confidence. They made 23 3s against us the last two games.
"I knew we had two fouls to give, and we executed that pretty well. I would have liked Justin to foul Gibson on the catch. I think he tried and missed. CJ (Webster) did a nice job of rotating over."
The loss snapped a two-game win streak for Tech which finished 6-24 in Kerry Rupp's first year at the helm.
"I felt we had to get a quick shot because they only had five fouls. We wanted to get Kyle Gibson off a reverse cross pick and have Dwayne (Lathan) step up to the rim. He did the right thing and we got a good look.
"I asked them to finish strong and battle. It's been a tough year, but we've grown. We've made strides as a team. We understand what it takes for next year."
Tech had more 3-point field goals in the second half (8) than it did two-point baskets (5), and they didn't have a lot of problems solving the Spartans' 2-3 zone.
J.C. Clark hit two 3-pointers. Kyle Gibson hit a pair of long-range shots and Lathan added one, all in a 5 1/2 minute span to spur Tech to a 54-50 lead with 8:19 left. That was Tech's last lead of the game.
"I told the kids we needed to go inside out and get gap dribble penetration," Rupp said. "We tried to run the overload to one side and get to the bottom of the 2-3 zone and swing the ball to the corners. We did a good job of shooting the ball."
"We have a hard time matching up (with them)," Nessman said. "It is a good defense for us."
San Jose rebounded with a 12-6 run for a 62-60 lead with 2:02 left. Drew Washington tied the game at 62 on a baseline drive, and that set the stage for the wild finish.
DaShawn Wright scored 17 to lead the Spartans, while Pierce scored 16 points and pulled down a career-best nine rebounds. C.J. Webster added 13 and Chris Oakes 11.
San Jose State 70, Idaho 63
The Spartans held Idaho without a field goal for the first 12 minutes 54 seconds of the second half, and that proved to be the difference in the opening-round game.
Alisha Hicks scored a season-best 19 points, while Sayja Sumler added 13, Natalie White 12 and Myosha Barnes 10 for the Spartans, who improved to 3-27.
"It was really nice to see the team finally put two good halves of basketball together," said SJSU coach Pam DeCosta. "I also think that we played good defense tonight and everyone was where they were supposed to be. Everyone did their job and we finally stayed disciplined.
"Tonight, I think we were the most athletic team, but we knew we would have to match Idaho's intensity. We did a good job of forcing mismatches and capitalizing on their mistakes."
Idaho, led by Alana Curtis and Katie Madison, shot 40 percent from the floor and led 38-35 at the break.
Then Idaho went ice cold from the field, and San Jose, thanks to Hicks' offense, grabbed a 54-47 lead before Madison broke the field goal drought with a lay-up with 7:06 left in the game.
Idaho, despite Madison's dominance inside (24 points), never got closer than three the rest of the game.
"You can't start a half 0-for-20 (actually 0-for-23) and expect to win a game," Idaho coach Mike Divilbiss said. "I'm surprised by it because we had been shooting better toward the end of the season. We had been aggressive enough offensively the last couple of weeks. It was disappointing. We did it to ourselves."