Pack notebook: McGee struggles down stretch
Appeal Sports Writer
LAS CRUCES, N.M. – JaVale McGee started strong, but had problems down the stretch of Nevada’s 83-75 loss to host New Mexico State Friday night at the Pan American Center.
McGee finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Eleven of those points came in the first half when Nevada grabbed a 33-31 lead. He was a non-factor in the final 20 minutes, however.
Foul trouble caught up to McGee in the second half. He picked up his second at the 16:36 mark and his third at 16:04 which forced him to the sidelines.
The Pack’s star 7-footer was careless with the ball, committing five turnovers in the final 20 minutes, as New Mexico State kept bringing a guard from the backside to help when he put the ball on the deck.
“He (McGee) is a pretty good player,” NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said. “We platooned against him and he still got 15. He’s a good player. The country knows it and the NBA knows it. I challenged our fifth-year seniors that as good as he is, he is just a sophomore. JY (Jahmar Young) did a good job of digging at the ball. We know he likes to put it on the floor.”
FREE THROW EDGE
New Mexico State had five more field goals than Nevada, 29-24, and also shot twice as many foul shots.
The Aggies made just 21 of 40, which helped keep the game close. Nevada was tremendous at the line, shooting 85 percent, knocking in 17 of 20.
Menzies gave a lot of credit to the Aggies’ fans. Nearly 10,000 packed the house, and the bulk of them were for NMSU.
“There is no place like home,” Menzies said. “It was obvious we were at home. The fans were incredible, and it’ll probably be better tomorrow. The kids love it when they come out and they show that in their effort.”
BRONCOS TOO TOUGH
Boise State used a 11-4 surge midway through the second half to build a 17-point lead en route to an 88-78 win over Utah State in the other semifinal game.
The loss avenged a defeat at the end of the regular season that cost the Broncos the regular-season title and cost them the No. 1 seed.
Utah State had cut the BSU lead to 57-48 on two Stephen DuCharme free throws with 15:09 left. A 3-pointer by Matt Bauscher (23 points), a bucket from the baseline by Reggie Larry (23 points) and a putback by Kurt Cunningham made it 64-48. A lay-up by Mark Sanchez and a 3-pointer by Larry capped the surge and gave BSU a 69-52 lead.
The closest Utah State came the rest of the way was seven points, 83-76.
COMING OUT PARTY
Yuba College transfer Aaron Garner scored a career-best 14, including 11 straight in a first-half surge, in the Boise win over Utah State.
Garner had scored just 10 points in his last 12 games, and was averaging less than two points a game.
“Once I hit the first free throw, I got in a rhythm and it was good,” Garner said. “It feels good. I used my bench awareness to see what others can’t see when they are on the floor. I watch the game closely when I’m on the bench and get ready to go when I get in the game.”
USU GETS AUTOMATIC BID
Utah State knows for sure its season will continue.
When a team wins the conference, or in the Aggies’ case earns the top seed and doesn’t advance to the NCAAs, it gets an automatic bid to the NIT.
The Aggies, 24-10, have had several close calls in WAC tournaments in the past.
“I was in three championship games and then the semifinals tonight,” USU coach Stew Morrill said. “I will get one more shot in the NIT, and hopefully we can play better defense and better basketball that night.”