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Top seeds all advance at WAC Tournament

Top seeds all advance at WAC Tournament

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – It was a tale of two halves for Boise State Thursday afternoon.

In the first half, the Broncos shot an uncharacteristic 33 percent from the field and committed 15 turnovers which led to 16 Hawaii points and an eight-point deficit.

The Broncos, who shared the regular-season title with Nevada, Utah State and New Mexico State, turned the ball over just seven times in the second half and shot 79 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes to grab a 80-74 victory in a quarterfinal game of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament Thursday at The Pan American Center.

Boise State, 23-8, advances to the semifinals against Utah State, 24-9. The Aggies swept the Broncos during the regular season, including a 19-point win on March 6 in Boise.

“I’m glad that’s over,” BSU coach Greg Graham said. “Maybe the extra time off made us rusty in the first half. We got it going in the second half. The difference was turnovers. The first half we had 15 turnovers and we had seven in the second half.

“We shot extremely well in the second half. We challenged them. The first game of the tournament you don’t feel you’re into it until you’re through it.”

Hawaii started ice cold in the second half, going 1-for-9 and turning the ball over twice.

“We wanted to play the shot clock a little more,” UH coach Bob Nash said. “We had good looks. The shots just weren’t falling.”

Boise State took advantage of that cold spell and went on an 18-5 run for a 45-40 lead with 13:37 left in the game. Anthony Thomas hit a long one from the top of the key that tied the game at 37, and then Reggie Larry and Tyler Tiedeman knocked down 3-pointers to give BSU the aforementioned five-point lead.

“Anthony had that 3-pointer that was a little deep, but it went in,” Graham said. “It was one of those … good shot.”

Hawaii did battle back to tie the game four different times – at 45 on a field goal by Matt Gibson (17 points), at 52 on a free throw by Gibson, and at 57 and 60 on 3-pointers by Jared Dillinger (14 points).

The Broncos went on a 9-2 run to open up a 69-62 lead with 1:33 left, as the Warriors were forced to foul. Tyler Tiedeman knocked in four straight free throws, Matt Nelson hit three and Reggie Larry, who had 16 second-half points, added a basket that actually started the surge.

Larry went 7-for-10 from the field in the final 20 minutes, including a 3-point field goal.

“I didn’t want this to be my last game,” Larry said. “I want to do everything I can to stay in the tournament. I just go out and do as much as I can. I don’t want to be done with playing college basketball.”

Utah State 85, San Jose State 65

The Spartans had been a thorn in the side of the Aggies this year, beating the top-seed at home by three and losing by five on the road.

Utah State, led by Jaycee Carroll (24 points) and Tyler Newbold (19 points), hit nine of its first 15 shots to build a 24-9 lead, and the Spartans never recovered.

“We’re happy to still be playing,” USU coach Stew Morrill said. “We’ve had a tough time against San Jose. I think we benefited from them being on the road for 10 days.”

San Jose finished on the road at New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech, and never returned to the Bay Area before the tournament.

“I thought Utah State played fabulous today,” SJSU coach George Nessman said. “We got ourselves in a big hole and they are difficult to play against trying to come from behind. They are a really good team and it showed how superior they played today.”

Jaycee Carroll, the WAC Player of the Year, made his first four shots and Newbold knocked his first two 3-point attempts for the early 15-point lead. Newbold nailed 5 of his 3-pointers.

“It’s huge,” Carroll said when asked about Newbold’s play. “He’s a good shooter. It’s good to see him play that well.”

The Aggies allowed SJSU to get the deficit under 10 once in the second half, 39-31, with 19:05 left.

Utah State also got a big game from Tai Wesley, who scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked six shots.

New Mexico State 73, Idaho 53

The host Aggies scored 16 of the game’s first 20 points and cruised to an easy victory.

The win was New Mexico State’s 20th of the season.

Justin Hawkins led NMSU with 26 points, hitting 8-for-14 from the field, including three 3-pointers. He was 7-for-9 from the foul line. Fred Peete and Jonathan Gibson added 12 points and Jahmar Young 11.

Darin Nagle led the Vandals, 8-21, with 12 points.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281