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Matadors one win from unlikely NCAA trip

3/13/2004

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Utah State's bid to play for the Big West
tournament championship was ruined Friday night by a player the
Aggies hadn't seen all season.

Joseph Frazier made a 3-pointer with 29.6 seconds to play to
give Cal State Northridge a 63-62 victory over the No. 22 Aggies in
the conference tournament semifinals.

The victory puts the sixth-seeded Matadors (14-15) into Saturday
night's final against Pacific, a 67-61 winner over Idaho.

Top-seeded Utah State (25-3) will miss the tournament final for
the first time since 1999. Utah State had won three of the past
four Big West tournaments.

Frazier, who finished with 13 points, made his third start after
returning from an 11-game suspension March 1 for violations of team
rules. That suspension forced Frazier to miss both regular-season
games against Utah State.

"Their getting Joe Frazier back is huge," Aggies coach Stew
Morrill said. "He's just a motor out there. He energizes their
team in terms of their emotion and defensive effort."

Frazier displayed both characteristics after Utah State, which
trailed by 13 points in the first half, took a 62-60 lead on Mark
Brown's 12-foot jumper with 58.2 seconds to play.

Cal State Northridge took almost 30 seconds on its ensuing
possession before Frazier made his 21-foot jumper.

"I let it go like I knew it was going in, before I released my
hand," Frazier said. "I mean, it's faith, determination."

The Aggies had two more chances to win.

After Utah State's Jason Williams missed a 12-foot baseline
jumper with 4.4 seconds left, the Aggies got the ball back when
Northridge's Thomas Shewmake traveled after grabbing the rebound.
But Frazier recovered Brown's high inbounds pass as time expired.

"That's what was going to win the game," Frazier said of his
defensive effort. "I look at is as if it were my life. I don't
know how many chances I'm going to have left, so I'm going all
out."

Northridge's Ian Boylan scored 27 points. Spencer Nelson led
Utah State with 19 points.

Despite the loss, Morrill believes his team deserves to go to
the NCAA tournament as an at-large entry.

"We've been nationally ranked for six weeks," Morrill said.
"We've won 25 games and we have an RPI of 35. Losing by one point
in your conference tournament is going to wipe all that out? It's
going to irritate the Hell out of me if it does."