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Utah State upsets Buckeyes 77-68 in OT

The Associated Press


Friday, March 16, 2001

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Utah State’s first NCAA tournament victory since 1970 was a year in the making.

After leaving ashamed following a first-round loss last season, the 12th-seeded Aggies beat Ohio State 77-68 in overtime Thursday in one of the biggest opening-day upsets.

”The first time you go to the tournament you are in awe and you don’t know how to handle it,” said Tony Brown, who scored 17 points, including the game-tying jumper with 1.8 seconds to play in regulation in the East Regional.

”You go there the first year to get over all the nervousness and excitement, then hope you get a second chance to go back.”

The Big West Conference team was in awe of Connecticut last year in a 75-67 loss.

”They were not content to have lost by only eight points to the defending national champions and felt like the magnitude of the event got the best of them,” coach Stew Morrill said. ”This whole season has been about getting back here and getting another chance.”

Curtis Bobb scored eight of his 14 points in overtime to help the Aggies (28-5) knock fifth-seeded Ohio State out in the first round for the first time since 1982.

”It’s obviously a disappointing loss for us,” Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien said. ”But you’ve got to give a world of credit to those guys. In my mind, they were the better team.”

Bernard Rock scored 18 points to lead Utah State, which will play UCLA in the second round. The Bruins beat Hofstra 61-48.

The Aggies also were quicker and more aggressive than Ohio State (20-11). They forced 21 turnovers, including 12 steals, and committed only five turnovers.

Utah State also shut down Ken Johnson, Ohio State’s shot-blocking center, in the second half. Johnson had only six points – all on free throws – and one block after halftime. He finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

”We never felt like Ohio State was the better team and always believed we could beat them,” said Dimitri Jorssen, who guarded Johnson most of the day.

”I hope this puts us on the map and gets people to go to our web site because we proved we can play with the top teams.”

Bobb, who was scoreless until hitting a 3-pointer with five minutes to play in the second half, scored seven straight points in overtime to give the Aggies control.

He put Utah State up 62-61 with a short jumper, then scored on a putback that drew a foul. He made the free throw, giving the Aggies a 65-62 lead.

Ohio State missed its next attempt, but was called for traveling on the rebound, giving the Buckeyes the ball back.

Bobb then settled down his teammates, yelling, ”Don’t worry, we got it! We got this game!”

He proved it on the next possession, when Shawn Daniels came up with a steal and tossed it in to Bobb for a dunk and a 67-62 Utah State lead.

”We got the traveling call and I saw some heads go down and some yelling and I just wanted them to know that we could only lose the game, they couldn’t beat us,” Bobb said. ”We had to stay together or else Ohio State could take the game.”

Ohio State then gave up the ball on passes or off-balance, risky shots.

The Buckeyes got 3-pointers from Brian Brown and Sean Connolly, but they had to foul after every possession and Utah State was 8-of-12 from the line in the 2:08 of the game.