New Mexico State wins WAC
Reno, NV (Sports Network) - Jahmar Young scored a team-high 19 points, and third-seeded New Mexico State captured the WAC Tournament championship with a 69-63 victory over top-seeded and defending champion Utah State.
Troy Gillenwater added 15 points off the bench for NMSU (22-11), which will play in the NCAA Tournament next week after winning its second conference championship in four years. The Aggies, who lost their final two regular season games, including a 81-63 thrashing at the hands of Utah State in the regular season finale, exacted some revenge after beating sixth-seeded San Jose State and second-seeded Nevada to reach Saturday's final.
Utah State (27-7) had dominated the WAC all season, having won its past 17 games. Jared Quayle led the team with 25 points, but USU will need to be awarded an at-large berth on Sunday if it is to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Nate Bendall added 16 points, while Tai Wesley had 13 with 12 rebounds in defeat for Utah State.
Trailing by four with just over seven minutes to go, New Mexico State went on a game-changing 14-4 run that would lead to the championship.
Hamidu Rahman quickly tied the game, 53-53, on a dunk with 6 1/2 minutes left, and a Jonathan Gibson basket on the next possession gave NMSU the lead. Following a pair of free throws from Wesley, Gillenwater put New Mexico State ahead for good with a three-pointer.
Young capped the impressive spurt with a free throw for a 63-57 lead with 2 1/2 minutes to go. Utah State never got closer than four down the stretch.
Neither team led by more than four in a closely contested first half, and a Young three inside two minutes remaining provided New Mexico State with a 28-26 advantage at the break.
Utah State strung together seven straight points early in the second half to grab a 37-32 lead on a Quayle jumper. USU continued to play frontrunner for a majority of the final period, as the team held a 53-49 cushion on a Bendall three with 7:16 to play.
Utah State beat eighth-seeded Boise State and fourth-seeded Louisiana Tech to reach the final...New Mexico State did earn a regular season win against USU this season, a 55-52 victory at home on January 2...Gibson had 14 points for New Mexico State...Utah State still leads the all-time series, 37-33.
03/14 00:54:50 ET