Facebook Twitter

AGGIES’ MISSED FREE THROWS PROVE COSTLY AGAINST UTES

SHARE AGGIES’ MISSED FREE THROWS PROVE COSTLY AGAINST UTES

Utah coach Rick Majerus says he has nightmares about the three players from the state he didn't bother to recruit - Jimmy DeGraffenried (now at Weber State), Bryon Ruffner (Utah State to Utah Valley and next year to BYU) and Eric Franson (now a junior at Utah State). Majerus says he'll never let that happen again, and Franson underscored why Friday night at the Spectrum.

Franson scored a career-high 30 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for Utah State (3-2), both game highs, but Majerus' Utes survived that bad dream with a huge game from a Majerus recruit, freshman Michael Doleac out of Portland, Ore., and strong efforts from Brandon Jessie, Keith Van Horn and a host of young Ute big men who sealed off the middle to any Utah State player except Franson.Utah (7-2) defeated Utah State 75-71 when, with a three-point Ute lead, USU missed a three-point attempt and, with 1.3 secondsleft, Jon Wickizer fouled Jessie, who made the free throw he needed to seal the outcome.

Although Utah ran up an eight-point lead with 5:25 to go on a Jessie eight-footer in the lane, the Utes never really put Utah State down. The Aggies came back time and again to get within one, two or three, and a Myron Simms three-pointer while Franson was being fouled underneath, leading to free throws and essentially a five-point play with 1:51 left, cut the Ute lead to 71-70.

But USU missed seven free throws in the final 2:49, and when Corwin Woodard's three-pointer failed, the Utes were finally in control.

"We hit our free throws, executed well and kept our poise and composure," said Majerus.

Said Aggie coach Larry Eustachy, "The game never was right." He referred to the Aggies' inability to get the ball inside, to their poor offensive rebounding and poor free-throw shooting (17-for-30, while Utah was 26-for-34 at the line). "I don't know if it would have been fitting if it (the final three-point attempt) had gone in. We just couldn't get over the hump."

"Give credit to Majerus," said Franson, admiring the way the Ute coach got so many young players so mentally ready.

"I love Franson," said Majerus, still wishing he'd recruited him.

The Aggie he did recruit, Silas Mills, who went from grade and discipline troubles at the U. to three junior colleges back to the U. and finally to USU because of an NCAA ruling, played like Majerus had jokingly hoped he would: Like he was ill.

"I love Silas, and I don't say that a lot," said Majerus, whose presence may have helped hold Mills to four points, five rebounds and five fouls.

"There's one thing worse than not trying hard enough, and that's trying too hard," said Majerus.

"I was too intense for the game," admitted Mills. "I didn't play well, but I hung in there for the team. I did my job." Just not as well as usual. He averages 18 points and nine rebounds.

"We ran a few different people at him," said Van Horn, noting guard Jimmy Carroll played him half the time and one of the big forwards played him the rest of the time, keeping him wondering who'd be there. "I think he got so psyched up to play us it hurt him," Van Horn said.

"It was a nice win, good for a young team," said Majerus, not ready to pronounce his Utes fit for the WAC wars ahead yet but satisfied with contributions from a host of role players like Doleac, Carroll and Mark Rydalch, as well as starting point guard Terry Preston .

Rydalch, coming back from knee surgery, played just five minutes, but Majerus said he was a stabilizing force. He said Carroll"had his best game" and took some good shots. Jessie led Utah scoring with 17 and rebounding with nine, and Van Horn scored 14 with four rebounds.

Doleac, who missed the last two games and practiced only once this week because of an ankle sprain, played only 18 minutes but made some back-breaking long shots when the Aggie zone left him open from 15 feet. He scored 15 points and had five rebounds in his 18 minutes. At one point, midway through the second half when the Aggies started coming back with Franson heating up, Doleac got Nate Wickizer to foul out and made the free throws. He then added two long jumpers to cancel out Franson's points and keep the Utes up by three. A Carroll trey and Jessie's runner in the lane made it seven, and the Utes needed it all.

"Doleac's shots were big," said Eustachy. "And he's only 17. That's amazing."

Roddie Anderson was the only other successful Aggie. He was 5-for-6 from the field and scored seven from the line, 17 in all, and had nine rebounds. The point guard forced himself into the lane to help foul out three Utes (Preston, Ben Melmeth and Alex Jensen).

NOTES: With a crowd of 9,829, the Aggies easily went over the 2.5-million mark in attendance in the 25th season of Spectrum play . . . Aggie guard Covington Cormier returned to the team at 2 p.m. Friday after attending a funeral in Philadelphia and did not get into the game . . . Utah's Ma Jian sat out the second game of a two-game team suspension for academics . . . Utah State hosts its own holiday tournament Wednesday and Thursday; Utah hosts Cal-Fullerton Tuesday.