Utah State guard Adam Thoseby (11) drives past Louisiana Tech's Raheem Appleby (3) during an NCAA college basketball game in the Western Athletic Conference men's tournament Thursday, March 8, 2012, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
LAS VEGAS — A rough season for Utah State came to a screeching halt as the Aggies were knocked out of the WAC Tournament on its opening night by Louisiana Tech 72-70.
The first-round loss is the first for Utah State since joining the WAC, and will be only the second time in seven seasons of WAC play that the Aggies won't be in the conference championship game.
The Utah State bench did most of the work for the Aggies, scoring 38 points.
Usual starter Danny Berger came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points to lead USU. Freshman forwards Jordan Stone (9 points) and Ben Clifford (12 points) also came off the bench to notch career-highs of their own. Brockeith Pane scored 13, including 11 in the second half, to lead the Utah State starters. First-team All-WAC guard Preston Medlin picked a terrible night to have one of his worst games of the season finishing with just six points, on 1-for-7 shooting.
Louisiana Tech came out of the gates strong, scoring the first 10 points of the contest, before Utah State battled back with a 20-3 run to take a seven-point lead midway through the first half. The Bulldogs countered with a run of their own late in the first half to take a three point edge to the locker room.
The second half was a game of catch-up for the Aggies as they trailed the entire half. Pane and Berger keyed a late run to cut the lead down to two points with 1:36 remaining after a driving Pane layup. After that, the Aggies went cold and could not complete the comeback, turning over the ball twice and missing a potential game tying free throw in the final minute.
There will be no NCAA Tournament or even NIT, but postseason may still be in sight for Utah State. Head coach Stew Morrill told KVNU radio before the game that the Aggies may get an invite to the CIT or CBI Tournament, but would likely not know for sure until this weekend.