Utah State led by 11 with less than nine minutes left, but the San Francisco Dons scored the game's last 13 points to capture their own Met Life Classic tournament championship Saturday night in Memorial Gym.
"We did everything you could do to lose at the end," said Utah State Coach Kohn Smith. "I thought we did a really good job to get control of the game and had the thing about put away."And then we just couldn't make the shots. We played tentative and scared and just didn't attack the way we had done to get the lead," Smith said.
The Dons won their third straight game and broke a three-game Aggie win streak with an 87-79 win in a wild and physical game that saw San Francisco score 19 more free throws than the Aggies. The Dons were 27 of 34 from the line, while Utah State made eight of its 11 free throws.
In the consolation, Vermont defeated Air Force 50-40.
Utah State, which was down by 10, 26-16, midway through the first half, came back from a 44-43 deficit at halftime to take a 71-61 lead with 8:56 left in the game on baskets by Rich Jardine, Kendall Youngblood, Bryon Ruffner, Youngblood and Randy Funk. They upped it to 73-62 on a Jardine dunk.
The Dons came back with four points on two free throws and a basket to cut the lead to seven, and after a Funk layin made it 77-68, San Francisco scored six straight to trim the lead to three, 77-74. Allen Gordon's running 15-footer put it back to five, but a Kevin Weeks basket and four Orlando Smart free throws gave the Dones an 80-79 advantage with 2:02 left, and the Aggies would never again score.
Youngblood, who had 21 points to San Francisco's Tim Owens for game honors, was named to the all-tournament team along with teammate Jay Goodman (11 points). Owens was named tourney MVP. Jardine chipped in 18 points before fouling out with :19 left for Utah State, and Don Kevin Weeks scored 19.
San Francisco moved to a 6-4 record while the Aggies fell to 3-5. They host Utah Saturday.