Spartans fall 58-54 to Utah State in WAC semis

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Spartans fall 58-54 to Utah State in WAC semis

March 11, 2011BOXSCORE NCAASCOREBOARDSAN JOSE STATE PAGE
LAS VEGAS (AP) Tai Wesley had 14 points and 12 rebounds, Brockeith Pane added 16 points and No. 23 Utah State held off San Jose State 58-54 Friday night to reach the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship game.Utah State (29-3) came into the WAC tournament looking for a second title in three years and to boost its NCAA tournament credentials. A fifth trip to the WAC title game in six years certainly helps, but the Aggies want to leave no doubt by beating the New Mexico State-Boise State winner on Saturday to earn the conference's automatic bid.Eighth-seeded San Jose State (17-15) gave Utah State everything it could handle in the semifinals despite playing for the third straight day, just missing the lead in the closing seconds when Adrian Oliver's 30-footer rimmed out.Oliver finished with 16 points and Keith Shamburger added 11 for San Jose State.Utah State won its fourth straight regular-season WAC title handily, going 15-1 to finish five games ahead of second-place Boise State.The Aggies set a school record for regular-season victories by winning 26 of their final 27 games and were ranked the final seven weeks of the regular season for their longest streak in 40 years.The standard-setting season gave Utah State a double bye into the semifinals, while San Jose State had to go through two grueling games to get there.The eighth-seeded Spartans made a surprising run into their first WAC semis, beating higher seeds Hawaii and Idaho behind the strong guard play of Oliver, Shamburger and Justin Graham.San Jose State's road figured to get much harder against Utah State, a team led by six seniors and Wesley, the WAC player of the year.The Aggies swept the two games during the regular season: by seven in Logan behind Pane's stat-sheet-filling game, and again by 19 on the road when reserve guard Brian Green scored a career-high 25 points.In the third matchup, Utah State had hoped San Jose State would have tired legs after playing the previous two days, and coach Stew Morrill freely rotated players in, using nine in the first half.The Spartans didn't seem to mind.With Oliver and Shamburger again leading the way - they had 28 points each against Idaho - San Jose State kept it tight in the first half, trailing by just four after holding the Aggies to 12-of-31 shooting from the field.Utah State tried to pull away early in the second half, building a 44-34 lead, but the Spartans weren't ready to cash in their season just yet.San Jose State, after shooting poorly to open the half, started dropping a few here and there while continuing to play tight defense, pulling to 50-49 with just over 8 minutes left.The Spartans continued to hang around, getting within two on Oliver's hard drive with 51 seconds left.Oliver got San Jose's final chance after Wesley missed a free throw at the other end, holding his dribble until the closing seconds, then launching a long 3-point attempt from straightaway. It just missed, Wesley snared the rebound and made two foul shots this time, sealing the harder-than-expected win.

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

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USATSI

Barracuda power play leads the way in Game 2 win over Grand Rapids

SAN JOSE – The Barracuda struck for three power play goals, including the game-winner in the second period by Joakim Ryan, in overcoming the Grand Rapids Griffins at SAP Center on Sunday night, 4-2.

San Jose’s victory evens the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series at one game apiece.

Grand Rapids erased a 2-0 hole to tie the game in the middle frame, but less than a minute after Matt Ford knotted the score at 2-2 with a rocket from the circle on a Griffins power play, Ryan’s blast from just inside the blue line at 15:28 staked the Barracuda a lead they would keep for the rest of the night. 

The Barracuda finished 3-for-5 on the power play, after going 0-for-6 in a Game 1 loss on Saturday.

“The power play was a lot better tonight,” Ryan said. “We got set up more. We were able to get shots through from the point.”

One of those shots came early, when defenseman Julius Berman beat goalie Jared Coreau from long range just 3:35 into the game with San Jose on a man advantage. Later in the first, on another power play, Ryan Carpenter found open ice in the slot and redirected a Tim Heed pass at 10:44 for his team-leading eighth of the playoffs.

“Coming out, we wanted to get the first goal tonight,” Carpenter said. “For Bergman to get that first goal was huge for us.”

Ryan and Carpenter both attributed the power play success to winning faceoffs, which is something coach Roy Sommer wanted the club to focus on after it dropped the series opener, 3-1.

Winning faceoffs often is an indication of a team’s compete level, and that, too, was lacking for the Barracuda in an opener in which Sommer said his team played “dumb and slow.” 

Sunday was a much better performance.

“Whenever we’ve had a bad start, or a bad game, the next day these guys have responded,” said Sommer, whose club is the top seed in the Western Conference. “They’ve done it all year.”

The series now shifts to Grand Rapids for the next three games, with Game 3 going Wednesday. The primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the Griffins posted a 25-11-2 record in their own building in the regular season.

The Barracuda, though, should be a confident group on the road. Against San Diego in the second round, San Jose won all three games in Southern California after splitting the first two at home.

“It’s going to be a hell of a series,” Sommer said. “It’s probably going to go the duration, I imagine. Both teams are kind of feeling each other out and kind of have a pretty good idea of what the other guys are doing now.”

Ryan said: “Honestly, I think they are the team in the league that plays the most like us. I felt like last night they did a better job of taking the game to us. I thought we came out better tonight, and we battled harder, competed more, won more pucks. They’re a really good team, it’s going to be a battle the rest of the series, for sure. They’re not going to lay down.”

Barclay Goodrow’s empty netter with 1:06 left in regulation was the only goal in the third period.

The Barracuda outshot the Griffins, 40-35, including a 20-11 advantage in the first period.

No sweep here: Without Isaiah Thomas, Celtics stun Cavs in Game 3

No sweep here: Without Isaiah Thomas, Celtics stun Cavs in Game 3

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND — Avery Bradley's 3-pointer dropped in with less than a second left and the Boston Celtics, blown out in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals and playing without star Isaiah Thomas, stunned the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-108 on Sunday night in Game 3 to end the champions' 13-game postseason winning streak.

Bradley's shot from the left wing bounced on the rim four times before going down. It capped a furious comeback by the Celtics, who trailed by 21 in the third quarter before rallying to tighten up a series that appeared to be over.

Marcus Smart scored 27 points, and Bradley had 20 for the Celtics. They were given little chance after losing by 44 in Game 2 and then losing Thomas for the rest of the postseason because of a hip injury.

Kyrie Irving scored 29 points, and Kevin Love 28 for Cleveland. The Cavaliers dropped to 10-1 in the postseason with their first loss since Game 4 of last year's Finals.