Jan. 27, 2013
LOGAN, Utah - Louisiana Tech had never beaten Utah State at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in seven tries, but that changed Saturday night behind Brandon Gibson's team-high 20 points and Raheem Appleby's game-winning three-pointer as the Bulldogs bested the Aggies 51-48 before 8,530 screaming Aggie fans.
LA Tech (18-3, 9-0 WAC) had only scored 13 points in the entire second half before Utah State (14-5, 5-4 WAC) went on an 8-0 run to tie the game up 48-48 with 1:42 left in the game.
On the Bulldogs next possession, Kenneth Smith found a wide-open Appleby on the wing and he drained the three-pointer to retake the lead with 1:26 remaining.
After a scoreless trip on offense by both teams, USU came up with the defensive rebound with 14 seconds left and the Aggies opted to not call a timeout.
Utah State pushed the ball past half court where the Bulldogs were able to trap the ball, but the ball handler managed to find an unguarded Ben Clifford who took a potential game-tying three that clanked off the iron to give the `Dogs their 10th straight victory, six of which have come on the road.
"Credit Utah State," said head coach Michael White. "They sit down and guard the heck out of you. They are mentally and physically tough. They fought and had a chance to win. It feels really good to come here and beat them in this environment. It was a huge win for our program."
In the past two conference games against Idaho and Seattle, the Bulldog offense had come out of the gates sluggish. In tonight's case, both teams did as they were a combined 2-of-13 before Gibson quickly came off the bench and poured in three straight three-pointers to give the `Dogs a 9-4 early advantage.
Utah State countered with a 7-0 run to cut it to within four, but Gibson remained hot hitting two more trays and picking the pocket of the Aggie's Spencer Butterfield at half court and laying in the fastbreak layup with 39 seconds left in the first stanza.
LA Tech did what they do best and that is create turnovers, 10 to be exact, that resulted in 12 points and took a 35-22 lead into halftime, the largest halftime deficit for Utah State all year.
Recent history also told us the Bulldog offense would be even better in the second half, but that did not happen either.
The Aggies opened the second stanza on an 8-0 run that saw the Bulldogs miss their first nine shots.
Smith would stop the scoring skid as he drove the lane and knocked in the tear-drop floater for the 37-30 edge.
Gibson followed with his career-high sixth three-pointer to push the lead back to double-digits before Utah State had another couple runs in them.
The Aggies climbed back into the game, not with field goals, but by drawing contact and getting to the free throw line where they went a perfect 8-for-8 to close the game to within four, 44-40 still in favor of the Bulldogs with 8:21 still to go.
After USU's Clifford was charged with a flagrant one foul and Hamilton sank two free throws to increase the lead to 48-40 with 6:42 on the clock, the Bulldogs went ice cold again.
Utah State treasured the basketball much more in the second half by only turning it over one time, aiding their comeback efforts down the stretch.
A foul by Appleby with only 1:42 remaining gave the Aggies their first chance since the opening minutes of the game to snatch the lead. Butterfield was perfect from the foul line till this point, but missed his first attempt. A made second attempt knotted the game up at 48-48 before Appleby redeemed himself with what would be the game-winning three-pointer.
"The play of the game was Speedy [Smith] coming off a down screen, then McNeail's down screen on J.L. Lewis to ball-screen Speedy which allowed him to attack the hedge," explained White. "[It] allowed Raheem to lift and Speedy gave him a great pass right on the money and Raheem stepped up and hit a dagger."
As much as Utah State took care of the basketball, LA Tech did even more so by only having four turnovers the entire game. Smith dished out his season-high 10th assist on the game-winning shot, and had zero turnovers to his name.
The point totals for both squads was the lowest of the season.
Utah State was led by two starters who had double-doubles, Jarred Shaw with 21 points and 14 rebounds and Butterfield with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
LA Tech returns home to put their unblemished conference record on the line when they face UT Arlington on Feb. 2 at 7:00 p.m. at the Thomas Assembly Center.
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