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Idaho upsets Lady Ags in semifinal contest

Last-second play fails; USU falls by 2 in high-scoring tilt

sports writer

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 18:03

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Senior Devyn Christensen is in anguish as buzzer sounds and final play fails for USU. /Delayne Locke photos

 

With a chance to lockup a berth in the finals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament the Utah State women’s basketball team took the court Friday afternoon against the University of Idaho in the semi-finals. The Vandals upset the Aggies 84-82, despite a heroic performance from senior Devyn Christensen.

“This is a tough place to be obviously, everybody puts a lot of time and emotion from August through March,” USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “It’s a long season for the girls. Lots of emotion is in play. We are very disappointed and frustrated.”

With 3.2 seconds remaining in the game USU found themselves down two after two made free-throws by Idaho’s Addie Schivo. Following a timeout Finkbeiner drew up a play for Christensen.

The ball was inbounded to Jenna Johnson who tried to find Christensen, but the pass was tipped leading to a mad scramble for the ball. The final three seconds ticked away and the buzzer sounded with Christensen on the ground, and the Aggies going home.

All the drama came in the second half after the two teams played a closely contested first half. The Aggies came out on fire in the second half making six consecutive 3-pointers.

Every time USU looked to be pulling away the Vandals had a response. Idaho stormed back and took the lead with 7:20 to play after a 3-pointer by Karr Krissy.

From there the Vandals went on a 22-5 run.

With USU down six points with two minutes to go it seemed as though the Aggies had run out of gas, but Christensen wouldn’t go away. She responded to every Idaho basket with one of her own, finishing with 10 points in the final two minutes.

“Being out there both teams were filling it,” Finkbeiner said. “I think we were both on that edge. We wanted to get that lead and get that win. Devyn had an excellent game in my opinion, and she came through for us.”

Christensen missed a 3-pointer with 11 second but Franny Vaaulu got the tip-in plus the foul. Vaaulu hit the ensuing free throw to tie the game 82-82.

“Franny got a huge rebound and made her free-throw,” Christensen said. “She struggled with her free-throws all year long, but I’m proud of her for stepping up and giving us a shot there at the end.”

On the next possession Schivo was fouled by Vaaulu who was going up for the block. Schivo hit both her free-throws to win the game.

Christensen finished with a career-high 37 points -26 coming in the second half- in the losing effort. She was 14-24 from the field and 9-16 from beyond the arc. Her nine made 3-pointers are a WAC tournament record.  

“I felt space and I was just trying to shoot,” Christensen said. “I tried to get things going for myself and my team. We started to fight back so I’m proud of everyone for that,”

Fellow senior Johnson finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Makenlee Williams continued her strong tournament with 12 points and three steals.

With the win, Idaho advances to the WAC championship on Saturday where they will face either Seattle or Louisiana Tech. Saturday’s final will have NCAA implications with the champion clinching an automatic berth into the big dance.

Idaho’s Stacey Barr put in a team-high 26 points and pulled down six rebounds. The Vandals had a trio of players finish with 12 points in Karr, Jessica Graham, and Alyssa Charlston.

The first half was closely contested as both teams traded baskets. USU went up by eight on a couple of occasions, and looked as though they could blow the game open.

Turnovers and second chance points brought the Vandals back into the game.  

The Aggies took a 34-32 lead into the break.

USU postseason dreams aren’t over yet as they could still be invited to the WNIT. If Seattle wins the WAC championship the Aggies get an automatic berth into the WNIT since they were the second seed.  

“I look back and this team started 2-8 this year,” Finkbeiner said. “We have covered a lot of ground since then to end up 18-13. I feel bad for the kids because we were in the right place emotionally and mentally today.”

- jborba@aggiemail.usu.edu

 

Twitter: JBorba15

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