10:05 PM ET, December 23, 2003
Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, Utah
LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Spencer Nelson gave Utah State's fans two chances to rush the court and celebrate a win over Brigham Young.First, Nelson hit an off-balance shot in the lane with 1.2 seconds left that appeared to win it, then after time was put back on the clock Nelson intercepted a pass on the final play of the game to seal the Aggies' 76-74 victory Tuesday.After blowing a 26-point halftime, lead, the Aggies were almost as relieved as they were happy."You could think, 'Dang it, we gave up a 26-point lead,' but I'm not going to think about that at all. BYU is a great team and we feel really good about a victory," said Nelson, who finished with 19 points and seven rebounds to lead Utah State (6-1).The Aggie fans, who stormed the court after Nelson's off-balance shot broke a 74-all tie only to have to return to their seats, rushed the floor a second time to celebrate Utah State's second win in the last six meetings against BYU (7-2).The teams were separated briefly after Nelson intercepted Luiz Lemes' pass then held the back of his head from an apparent elbow by BYU's Rafael Araujo. But both sides shook hands without incident as security kept the fans away from the players."We just wanted to stay between our man and the ball," Nelson said. "I knew Lemes underthrew Araujo and I went for the ball and got it -- and got a little Christmas present from Rafael in the back of the head."Cardell Butler scored 19, Nate Harris had 11 points and Mark Brown scored 10 for the Aggies, who held on for the win even after going just 8-for-20 from the floor in the second half."We are going to feel good about that one regardless of the second half," Utah State coach Stew Morril said. "All the credit in the world goes to BYU for a tremendous comeback. They did a great job in the second half. We couldn't stop them."Rafael Araujo scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and had 10 rebounds and Mike Hall scored 15 for the Cougars, who made just 7 of 16 free throws. Mark Bigelow scored 14, including a tying layup in the final minute, and Jared Jensen scored 10 for BYU.The Cougars were 21-for-27 in the second half with just one turnover as they nearly rallied for the win."Individually we each took it upon ourselves and played better," Bigelow said. "When you go down 26, it makes it tough to come back. We showed some character, but it was tough."Utah State led 51-25 at halftime and continued to play well early in the second half before the Cougars started to come back."I think defensively we gave a much better effort in the second half," BYU coach Steve Cleveland said. "We got the ball in the low post and did the things that were part of our game plan to start the game but didn't seem to materialize."Araujo scored six straight points and got a loose ball to Kevin Woodberry during a 13-2 run that got BYU to 69-64, then later Woodberry added a 3-pointer with 1:12 left that cut Utah State's lead to 73-72.After Nelson went 1-for-2 from the line, Bigelow drove for a layup to tie it at 74-all with 21.6 seconds left. But the Aggies had plenty of time and got the ball down low to Nelson, who threw up a little hook shot that went in and started the early celebration."A little bit of luck and a lot of blessings," Nelson said. "I don't know if you want to call it a hook shot, I don't know what you want to call it. A made field goal. That's what I'll call it."
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