Utah St Locks Up WAC Title With a Month to Spare

February 13th, 2009
MOSCOW, Idaho - Senior forward Gary Wilkinson recorded his sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead 17th-ranked Utah State to a 62-53 road win here against Idaho Thursday night. With the win, Utah State claims a share of its second-straight Western Athletic Conference regular season championship as it improves to 12-0 in league play and 24-1 overall. Idaho falls to 10-13 on the season and 4-6 in the WAC with the loss.


Utah State also extended the nation's longest winning streak this year to 19 straight games, which is tied with the 1999-2000 USU team for the longest winning streak in school history. The Aggies also improved to 10-0 on the road this year, which is the best in the nation, and is again tied with second-ranked Oklahoma for the most wins and best record in the country.


Along with all of its other streaks, Utah State also posted its 16th-straight WAC win, which is the longest winning streak in the conference since Utah won 19 straight WAC games in the late 1990s.


Junior guard Jared Quayle also scored in double-figures for Utah State and finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while sophomore forward Tai Wesley finished with nine points and five rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. Mac Hopson led Idaho with 17 points, while Luciano de Souza scored 11 points off the bench for the Vandals.


Once again, Utah State found a way to win a game in the final minutes as it out-scored Idaho 18-9 in the final 6:45. With the game tied at 44-all, junior guard Stavon Williams hit his second three-pointer of the game. Quayle later added back-to-back baskets, including one following a steal in the backcourt to give the visitors a 52-46 advantage with 4:01 to play.


Following his third trey of the half from de Souza to get UI back to within three both teams went nearly two minutes without scoring before Wilkinson hit only his third three-pointer of the season to stake the Aggies to a 55-49 lead with just under two minutes to play. USU then hit 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to post the nine-point win.


Utah State finished the game by shooting just 40.5 percent from the field (17-42) as its 17 made field goals were a season-low. USU did, however, shot 43.8 percent from three-point range (7-16) and made 77.8 percent of its free throws (21-27). Idaho finished the game by shooting just 36.4 percent overall (16-44), including 41.2 percent from behind the arc (7-17), and 70.0 percent at the free throw line (14-20). USU dominated the glass and out-rebounded Idaho, 40-21.


Utah State built and early eight-point advantage at 11-3 as Wilkinson scored six points during the opening seven minutes. Idaho, however, rallied with a 12-3 run during the next six minutes to take its first lead of the game at 17-16 with 5:12 to play. USU responded with four straight points and went into the locker room up 24-22 at the break.


Wilkinson led Utah State with 10 first-half points, while Terrance Simmons had seven for Idaho. USU shot just 36.4 percent (8-22) in the first 20 minutes, but held the Vandals to just 29.2 percent shooting (7-24).


Utah State will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 14 when it plays at Boise State (16-7, 6-4) at 7 p.m. (MT). The game against the Broncos will be televised live on KJZZ-TV.