Feb. 19, 2011BOXSCORE NCAASCOREBOARDSAINT MARY'SPAGE
MORAGA (AP) Tai Wesley and Brockeith Pane scored 22 points apiece to help No. 25 Utah State bolster its position for an NCAA tournament bid by beating Saint Mary's 75-65 Saturday night in a BracketBuster game.The Aggies (25-3) rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second half by the strong inside play of Wesley and a tight defense that forced the Gaels (23-6) to miss 16 of their first 20 shots in the second half for their first home loss of the season.Brady Jardine put the exclamation point on the victory with an emphatic dunk over Mitchell Young for a three-point play that made it 68-59 with 2:26 to go.Utah State accomplished exactly what it wanted in the BracketBuster, earning its first win all season against a team currently in the top 100 of the RPI. That's exactly the credential that was missing for the Aggies and could become crucial if they lose next month's WAC tournament in Las Vegas and need an at-large bid to the tournament. Utah State has already won at least a share of the regular-season conference title.Utah State fell behind by 12 points in the first half and trailed 39-29 early in the second before Wesley took over despite a broken nose that he re-aggravated a couple of times during the second half. He scored 10 points during a 19-2 run that gave the Aggies a nine-point lead as Saint Mary's struggled to get anything going offensively.Saint Mary's lost second leading scorer Rob Jones, who fouled out with 8:56 to go, and fell behind 59-49 on a deep 3-pointer by Pane with just under 7 minutes to go.Back-to-back 3-pointers by Clint Steindl got the crowd back into it for the Gaels before Jardine silenced them with his dunk.The second-half collapse was all-too familiar for the Gaels, who blew an 11-point second-half lead at San Diego on Wednesday before falling to a team that had only beaten three other Division I teams this season.
RELATED: USD KOs Gaels 74-66
The two losses have put the Gaels' hopes of making it consecutive NCAA tournaments for the first time in school history in peril. They now might need to win the WCC tournament in Las Vegas next month to feel secure heading into selection Sunday. Saint Mary's can still clinch the regular season conference title by beating Gonzaga at home Thursday night, ending the Bulldogs' 10-year run as WCC champs.Mickey McConnell scored 16 points and Young added 11 to lead the Gaels, who have dropped consecutive games for the first time all season.The Gaels got in trouble early when they fell behind 20-14 and had Jones sent to the bench with his third foul midway through the first half.But McConnell picked up his game from there to help Saint Mary's take control with a 20-2 run as the Aggies went nearly 9 minutes without a basket. McConnell got his first points of the game on an off-balance 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired to give Saint Mary's its first lead of the game. He hit a 32-footer the next trip down the court and added a difficult jumper from the foul line during the spurt.Young scored eight points during the run, capping it with a layup off a nice feed from Matthew Dellavedova and then a putback that made it 34-22. The Gaels led 36-27 at the break.