LOGAN -- Utah State was leading Loyola Marymount 67-58 with 1:26 left and the Aggies' Preston Medlin was headed to the free throw line after being fouled by the Lions' Jarred DuBois.
Suddenly what had been a loud, physical and fast-paced contest seemed ready to come to a calm with a series of trips to the free-throw line.
Not many in the Spectrum expected what came next. A loud crash near midcourt caused 5,546 eyes to peer at Medlin, wondering why he was on the ground. Though LMU head coach Max Good didn't mean to get his feet caught with Medlin's, the nasty-looking fall caused an uproar among fans with no shortage of upset players who were verbally sparring with each other.
Though the game never escalated into a brawl, it didn't appear like anyone in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum doubted that they were witnessing perhaps the most physical game of Utah State's season.
For the Aggies, that was a good thing. USU converted 32-of-35 free throws in defeating Loyola Marymount 77-69 and advancing to the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Aggies (20-15) will face Oakland University (Mich.) in Logan Sunday at 4 p.m. after marking their 13th straight season with at least 20 victories. USU's win also means that they have won three postseason games for the first time in school history.
"It was a feisty game," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "There were a lot of scrappy plays going on. We played hard; we scrapped hard. That's a good basketball team that we beat, and they've shown that throughout the year."
Indeed, the Lions (21-13) had notched wins at UCLA and against NCAA Tournament teams St. Mary's, St. Louis and BYU before beating Weber State in Los Angeles Wednesday night. But their frequent attempts to double and triple-team Medlin--and send him to the floor a few times--were not enough to keep the speedy sophomore guard from scoring 26 points while shooting 13-of-14 from the free-throw line. His eight rebounds helped the Aggies out-rebound the athletic Lions 43-35, though his six assists were part of a night in which USU committed 22 miscues, including seven from Ben Clifford and five from point guard Brockeith Pane. But 19 from LMU helped offset USU's woes, a result of the Lions' half and full-court presses that lasted most of the evening.
The Aggies' inability to maintain frequent possession of the ball marked the only aspect of the game that Morrill said was a "downside" to his team's performance.