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BIG WEST MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Northridge Has Surprise for Utah State

March 13, 2004|Eric Stephens;Paul McLeod

The Big West Conference men's tournament continued to bring out the best in Cal State Northridge, a team that had shown no sign of being competitive with No. 22 Utah State earlier in the season.

But Friday, with 29 seconds remaining, Joseph Frazier's three-point shot lifted the sixth-seeded Matadors to a 63-62 upset of the top-seeded Aggies in the Big West semifinals before a crowd of 5,548 at Anaheim Convention Center.

Northridge (14-15) will play Pacific in the championship game tonight.

"I told them that this was their destiny and they needed to claim their destiny," Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell said. "I know we're one game away and we haven't done anything yet."

Frazier's jump shot came after Ian Boylan had driven and drawn the Aggie defense before throwing it back to the guard on the left wing.

"It came to me and I just knew it was going in when I released it from my hand," Frazier said.

The jubilant Matadors almost got ahead of themselves.

After Utah State's Jason Williams missed a shot with 4.4 seconds left from the left corner, center Thomas Shewmake grabbed the rebound and took off for midcourt but was called for traveling with eight-tenths of a seconds left.

Utah State (25-3) got a reprieve, but it went for naught. Guard Mark Brown threw a lob pass for Nate Harris, but Frazier leaped and knocked the ball away to end the game.

The Aggies had won its two regular-season meetings with the Matadors by an average of 24 points. Neither game was close; the Matadors trailed at halftime by 24 in Logan and by 18 at Northridge.

This meeting was much different; with Boylan and Frazier taking star turns in this tournament. Boylan, who had 14 points total in the two losses, reached that figure in the first 18 minutes and finished with a game-high 27 points.

The junior guard scored five points in a 12-0 run that gave Northridge a 26-13 lead midway through the first half. Utah State responded with a 15-3 run that cut the lead to one and got Utah State's fans into the game, but the Matadors didn't wilt.

"To beat a team like Utah State, you have to play very well, and you have to make shots," said Boylan, who had a career-high 31 points in the first round. "I just shot with confidence."

Spencer Nelson had given the Aggies a 58-52 lead with 4:21 remaining, but the Matadors got steals on three consecutive possessions and scored the next eight points. The stunning defeat will force Utah State to wait nervously to see if it is selected for an NCAA tournament berth.

"It depends on who you listen to," said Utah State Coach Stew Morrill, whose team had an RPI of 35 before the game.

"If you listen to the television guys, we're in. We have been nationally ranked for six weeks, 17-1 in conference play and lost by one point in the conference tournament."

Eric Stephens

*

Pacific 67, Idaho 61 -- After falling behind early, the Tigers (23-7) extended the second-longest winning streak in the nation to 14 games. Guard Miah Davis led Pacific with 21 points.

The second-seeded Tigers trailed, 12-3, in the first 3:17 because Idaho made its first five shots.

But over the next eight minutes the Vandals (14-16, 9-9) began to struggle. They made only three of their next 12 shots and only three more field goals after that before halftime.

That let Pacific, which finished the half by making 10 of 19 field goals and nine of 13 free throws, back into the game, despite 10 first-half turnovers.

The Tigers erased a nine-point deficit with a 10-0 run and took their first lead on a lay-up by guard Myree Bowden at the 12:50 mark.

The lead changed hands four times before Pacific took the lead for good, 20-19, on a jump shot by Guillaume Yango with 7:40 left. They extended that lead to 45-34 with 13:30 left after a three-point basket by Davis, the Big West player of the year.

Idaho cut the lead to 55-52 on a rebound and basket by Rashaad Powell with 4:37 to go. But Pacific got baskets by Davis and Christian Maraker off an assist from Davis.

-- Paul McLeod

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