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Johnson lifts Aggies to win in final seconds

staff writer

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 15:01

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JUNIOR GUARD JENNIFER SCHLOTT puts up a shot over a Denver defender during a Jan. 19 conference game. DELAYNE LOCKE photo

 

Late-game heroics has the Utah State women’s basketball team back at .500 after winning their season-high fourth game in a row. The Aggies were in action Saturday night when they took on Louisiana Tech on the road. USU defeated the Lady Techsters 76-75 in overtime.

“The style of the game statistically wasn’t real pretty as far as shooting percentages,” said USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “I give credit to both teams defense. It was a good defensive game.”

The star of the night was senior Jenna Johnson, who hit the game winner with five seconds remaining in the overtime session with the Aggies down one. Johnson finished with 15 points to go along with seven rebounds. Sophomore Franny Vaaulu was USU’s leading scorer with 20 points and eight rebounds.

The Lady Techsters were led by Brittany Lewis, who had a double-double with a game high 21 points and 10 rebounds.

With the win, the Aggies are back at .500 for the first time since the start of the season. USU is 10-10 and holds second place in the WAC at 7-2. The Lady Techsters, who were picked to finish behind the Aggies in the WAC this season, are having a disappointing campaign so far at 9-10 and 5-4 in conference play.

“7-2 is the best start the women’s Aggies have had in the WAC, so we are proud of that accomplishment,” Finkbeiner said.

It was a rough first half as neither team could get an edge on the other. USU shot 23 percent in the first half, so it was their strong defense that kept them in the game. The Aggies forced 10 steals and two blocks in the first 20 minutes.

At the start of the second half, the Aggies took their first lead of the game after a 3-pointer by Schlott.

The second half played much differently from the first as both teams traded baskets and the lead. Louisiana Tech took its biggest lead of the game 56-47 with six minutes remaining.

“They opened up a nine point lead with about six minutes to go and that’s when we clawed back,” Finkbeiner said. “Elise Nelson came up big and Franny came up big down the stretch. Both of them got the majority of our points in the last two minutes of regulation. They provided us getting back into the game.”

USU fought back and eventually tied the game 62-62 after a layup by sophomore Elise Nelson.

The Techsters took the lead 66-64 after a jumper by Lewis with 19 seconds to play. The Aggies responded on the next possession with Vaaulu tying the game with nine ticks remaining on the clock.

Louisiana Tech had one final shot to win the game in regulation but Kelia Shelton missed the shot at the buzzer.

“The second half opened up a lot more,” Finkbeiner said. “Both teams got some fast breaks that’s why the score was so much more in the second half.”

In overtime, USU struck first with a basket by Vaaulu. Louisiana Tech overcame the deficit and took a three point lead after made free throws by Shelton.

Schlott came right back and made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 75-74 with 2:10 to play.

“We ran an out of bounds play for Devyn but they covered her, so Jenna was the counter and we threw it to Jenna,” Finkbeiner said. “She hit a really tough shot under the basket to give us a one point lead.”

Neither team would score again until Johnson hit the game winning shot with five seconds to play. The Techsters got one final shot for the win but Kendra Andrews 3-pointer as time expired was no good.

USU will look to ride this momentum into a huge three-game homestand where they will welcome first-place Seattle University and second-place University of Idaho. They will also play San Jose State, who defeated the Aggies 103-80.

“These three games are big because we could move into first place with a home sweep,” Finkbeiner said.

The first game will be Thursday at 7 p.m. when they play Idaho at the Spectrum.

 

– jborba@aggiemail.usu.edu

Twitter: JBorba15

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