New Mexico St. 69, Utah St. 63

Jamhar Young spent the afternoon in front of the television

watching other teams earn NCAA tournament berths.

He was determined to do the same for New Mexico State.

The 6-foot-5 junior point guard and tourney MVP scored 19 points

to help New Mexico State snap top-seeded Utah State’s 17-game

winning streak with a 69-63 upset in the Western Athletic

Conference title game Saturday night.

“I was watching TV today and seeing all those teams saying,

‘We’re going dancing. We’re going dancing,”’ Young said. “So I

just visualized it for us, and it is an amazing feeling.”

Young scored consecutive baskets to spark a 14-4 run late in the

game that turned a 51-46 deficit into a 60-55 lead for New Mexico

State.

The night before, he hit a basket with 3.8 seconds left in the

semifinals to knock off second-seeded Nevada, 80-79.

“I love to make big shots,” Young said. “It’s what I do.

Coach calls my number and I love to be in the spotlight.

Troy Gillenwater added 15 points and Jonathan Gibson 14 for the

Aggies (22-11), who allowed only five turnovers in a physical game

to Utah State’s nine.

Jared Quayle had 25 points, Nate Bendall 16 and Tai Wesley 13

for Utah State (27-7), which trailed 28-26 at the half en route to

its first loss since Jan. 4.

“It’s a tough loss,” Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “We

knew we were in for a tough game. They just kept answering

everything we did. That’s a good team. They can do something in the

NCAA tournament.”

Morrill expects his team to be there, too, with an at-large bid,

but knows there is no guarantee given the WAC’s mid-major

status.

“We won 17 games in a row, we won our league by three games, we

got to the finals in this tournament,” he said. “Our RPI is good

and our strength of schedule is better than a lot of teams they are

talking about.

“If we don’t get in, then it makes it real tough for leagues

like ours, teams like ours. What do you have to do? But you never

know. A bunch of guys that don’t know Winona State from Utah State

and go into a room and make those decisions.”

Utah State made a late comeback bid when Brian Green came off

the bench to hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the

Aggies’ lead to 60-57 with 3:35 left in the game.

After New Mexico State’s Wendell McKines scored and Young made a

free throw, Quayle’s jump shot made it 63-59. But Young lobbed a

pass to Gillenwater to turn a fast break into a slam dunk and a

65-59 lead with 1:23 to go.

Bendall scored inside to cut it to 65-61 11 seconds later, but

Young’s floater in the lane made it 67-61 with 39 seconds on the

clock.

Quayle missed a 3-pointer, but got a bank shot to go to make it

67-63 with 16 seconds left. Hernst Laroche then made two free

throws to seal the win.

New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said the fact Utah State

came from 13 down to beat his team 70-71 in last year’s WAC

semifinals made the victory that much sweeter.

“Oh, my goodness. What a feeling,” he said. “Our ball

pressure and our ability to play tough defense were the keys. …

We knew it would be a war.”

It was.

Wesley had to leave the game with a broken, bloody nose twice in

the first 7 minutes of the game, and then again about 5 minutes

before the half.

“He’s bleeding,” Young told referee Randy McCall when Wesley

returned in front of the press table with blood stains on his

jersey.

“It’s just blood on his jersey,” McCall answered.

“He’s not going to touch me,” Young declared.

“Don’t guard him,” the ref replied and handed the ball to

Wesley to inbound.

The rough play contributed to both team’s shooting struggles

early with Utah State missing its first six and New Mexico State

its first five from 3-point range.

Bendall hit a 17-footer to give Utah State a 18-14 lead 7:36

before the half, but New Mexico State went on an 11-3 run capped by

three consecutive baskets from Gillenwater to go ahead 24-21.

Quayle followed a pair of free throws with a 3-pointer from the

top of the key to put Utah State up 26-25 about 3 minutes before

the break, but Young answered with a 3 of his own from the left

baseline to make it 28-26 at the half.