Scores

Final

Boise State 86

(16-17, 6-12 WAC)

Fresno State 85

(16-14, 9-9 WAC)

    11:30 PM ET, March 11, 2005

    Lawlor Events Center, Reno, Nevada

    1 2 T
    BSU 49 3786
    FRES 43 4285

    Top Performers

    Boise State: J. Ellis 25 Pts, 17 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Blk

    Fresno State: J. Coleman 26 Pts, 2 Reb, 4 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk

    Broncos take on UTEP in Saturday's final

    RENO, Nev. -- Boise State's Jason Ellis knew the only way the eighth-seeded Broncos had a chance for an NCAA Tournament bid was to knock off Fresno State a day after stunning top-seeded Nevada in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

    The Broncos (16-17) did just that Friday night, beating the fourth-seeded Bulldogs 86-85 to become the lowest seed in WAC history to advance to Saturday's title game against second-seeded UTEP (26-7).

    "We have no choice," said Ellis, who scored 25 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Friday's semifinal.

    "We don't win and we go home. And I'm not ready to go home," he said.

    In the other semifinal Friday night, Omar Thomas scored 29 of his 31 points in the second half to lead UTEP past Rice 85-77 in the hunt for the automatic bid to the NCAA tourney that comes with the WAC postseason trophy.

    Boise State shocked 24th-ranked Nevada 73-72 Thursday when Coby Karl made one free throw but missed the second before Jermaine Blackburn grabbed the rebound and put it back in with 1.8 seconds left.

    Against Fresno, Karl went 0-for-11 from the field before finding himself in the same position on the free-throw line, trailing by a point with 8.7 seconds to play. This time he made them both.

    "Luckily, I was able to redeem myself," said the son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl.

    The previous lowest seed to make a WAC final was sixth-seeded Hawaii in 1995. The lowest seed to win the tourney was fifth -- UNLV in 1998 and Hawaii in 2001.

    "This shows how far we've come," Boise State coach Greg Graham said Friday night.

    "We've had a lot of tough losses, but they've held together and now we're playing well at the right time," he said.

    Fresno State coach Ray Lopes said he wasn't surprised by the Broncos' performance.

    "Hats off to Boise. They played a whale of a game. They deserved to win," Lopes said.

    "You see it all over the country ... It's not the best team that wins in tourney play, it's the best team for 40 minutes," he said.

    UTEP, which beat Hawaii in the quarterfinals, has hopes of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney should it fail to win on Saturday. But that could put UTEP and Nevada (24-6) in a dogfight for an invitation if Boise wins the tourney and only two WAC teams get invited. The Wolf Pack won the regular season WAC title with a record of 13-2 to UTEP's 11-4 and the two won on each other's floors.

    "We came up here knowing we had to win Thursday. We were scared to death of Hawaii," UTEP coach Doc Sadler said.

    Giovanni St. Amant added 15 points on five 3-pointers and Jason Williams had 10 for the second-seeded Miners, who won their sixth straight.

    Michael Harris scored 19 points, Jason McKrieth added 17 and Morris Almond had 13 for Rice, which had won six in a row and led four with less than 12 minutes left in the game.

    Thomas, who scored two points in only eight minutes of play in the first half, was 8-for-14 shooting from the field and made all 14 of his foul shots. Rice outrebounded UTEP 35-28 and shot 55 percent from the field to UTEP's 47 percent, but committed 17 turnovers to the Miners' six.

    "Omar's play doesn't surprise me," Sadler said. "You gotta credit Omar. He couldn't hit that 18-foot jump shot until this year."

    In the other game, Blackburn added 22 points for the Broncos, who outrebounded Fresno 45-30 and led by 10 points with less than 6 minutes left before withstanding a late Bulldogs rally for an unlikely shot at the WAC tourney title.

    Ja'Vance Coleman had 26 points for the Bulldogs (16-14), including a pair of 3-pointers in the last 1:28 before missing a final attempt that would have won the game with 2.5 seconds to play.

    Donovan Morris added 16 points and Chris Berry had 15 for Fresno State, which trailed 49-43 at the half.

    Boise State led by as much as 12 and went ahead 80-70 on Blackburn's 3-pointer with 5:20 left. But Fresno answered with a 15-4 run, taking an 85-84 lead when Kevin Bell stole the ball from Karl and made a layup with 30 seconds left.

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    BSU
    FRES
    Points 86 85
    FG Made-Attempted 29-61 (.475) 30-67 (.448)
    3P Made-Attempted 7-15 (.467) 12-32 (.375)
    FT Made-Attempted 21-26 (.808) 13-19 (.684)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 19 (0/0) 22 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 12 4

    2004-05 Season

    DATEGAMELINKS
    Jan 13, 2005 @FRES 89, BSU 82Recap
    Feb 12, 2005 @BSU 82, FRES 68Recap
    » Mar 11, 2005 BSU 86, @FRES 85Recap