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CARELESSNESS COSTLY AS AGS FALL TO SPARTANS

SHARE CARELESSNESS COSTLY AS AGS FALL TO SPARTANS

Carelessness with the ball is Utah State's worst trait; rarely has it hurt like it did Thursday in San Jose's Event Center.

Playing the last-place team, the only Big West team with more season turnovers than themselves, the Aggies dug a 14-point hole the first half on 17 turnovers. USU settled down to a four-point lead with six minutes left, weathered a goofy four-technical-foul situation and was tied with possession of the ball and 14 seconds left.Enter USU turnover No. 26.

As Duane Rogers dribbled for a potential winning play, the Spartans' Parisien Olivier Saint-Jean, who played 32 games as a freshman at University of Michigan before transferring, swiped the ball and let fly a 40-footer with :03 left. "A great three-second play," said Aggie coach Larry Eustachy.

It French-fried USU: A 68-65 San Jose upset to break a seven-game losing streak that included the Ags' 60-58 overtime win in Logan Jan. 15. It gave Saint-Jean a career-high 30 points, 50 in two games against USU.

"When you play with fire, you get burned," said Eustachy, adding the game was lost in the error-filled first half: "The poorest-quality basketball since I've been here. Real casual," said Eustachy. "It wasn't like we were getting pressed by Kentucky."

Still, from a 38-26 halftime deficit, the Ags were within one after seven second-half minutes on a 13-point spurt from Silas Mills (24 points, 10 rebounds), who had four points, five turnovers the first half. USU's first lead since 2-0 came 50-48 on an Eric Franson (17 points) basket at 8:49, and it led by four (56-52, 58-54) before falling behind 60-58 with 2:45 left on a Roy Hammonds (14 points) rebound dunker.

Thirty-nine seconds later came a sequence that didn't hurt like it could have but was bizarre. Hammonds fouled Mills; they sparred verbally for matching technical fouls. Ag Jermaine Womack, entering the game, spoke and was teched, and Eustachy drew a third USU T when referee Dave Libby called the coaches to midcourt but wouldn't answer a Eustachy question. "There's a very large ego involved," said Eustachy of Libby.

The Ags actually came out ahead, Mills making his regular free throws, Justin Jones making two Ts, Saint-Jean missing three of six tech free throws and Hammonds missing the shot on the possession, rebounded by Womack.

A Jon Wickizer steal fed a Mills dunk for a 65-64 lead at :23. San Jose tied when Marmet Williams made one of two free throws with :14 left.

With a win, USU (6-5, 9-10) would have been alone in third; instead it's still tied for fourth and at suddenly hot Pacific (90-56 Thursday winner over Nevada) Saturday night. SJSU is 4-8, 5-15, still last.