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Utah State escapes with narrow victory

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Maury Tate is one of Utah State basketball coach Larry Eustachy's best friends. Last season, Antwan Smith was one of Eustachy's best players.

If Smith hadn't missed two free throws with 31.8 seconds left and then fouled Justin Jones with 21.2 seconds remaining Saturday night in the Spectrum, Tate might have pulled off the ultimate insult.USU just did scrape by the Tate-coached Next Level Sports (1-4) 85-82 in exhibition.

The Aggies have a new offense and were minus two players, but Eustachy said that had no bearing. Defense and the mental game were shy. USU didn't get back on defense, didn't block out and allowed Next Level to shoot threes to go ahead by one after being down 16 with 14:15 to play.

"You're looking at a frustrated guy," Eustachy said after the game, unhappy his coaching hasn't gotten USU farther along. Minutes later, he saw Smith in the hall and said he'd get him the $100 (for blowing the game) right away. (He was joking.) He also said if he'd lost to a barnstorming team coached by his friend Tate, "I'd never have heard the end of it."

Aggie junior-college transfer Donnie Johnson had 15 points and 15 rebounds, and veterans Kevin Rice (22) and Justin Jones (19) led the scoring. NL's Marlon Garrett had 19 points.

Ex-BYU star Gary Trost took the exhibition seriously, with a second-half double-technical/ejection over a foul call. Jones made three of the four free throws for a 57-41 lead.

NOTES - The Ags are without guard Neal Geddes and forward Brandon Birch, perhaps for good. The NCAA suddenly ruled Geddes ineligible because of an old letter of intent he signed with Colorado Christian College, a non-NCAA institution. Geddes is appealing. After an LDS mission and a year at Snow College, Geddes briefly attended CCC but left when the school did not have the curriculum it had told him it offered. He walked on at USU last season . . . Prize recruit Birch hurt a shoulder in practice and may be out for the season. (It may be a week before that decision is made.)