It took overtime. Yes, free basketball.
However, for the first time in program history, the Utah Tech men’s basketball team has a postseason win in the Division I era.
Cam Gooden had a game-high 22 points as 11-seed Utah Tech knocked off 6-seed SFA on Tuesday nigh at Michelob Ultra Arena.
“Exciting win,” Utah Tech head coach Jon Judkins said. “We’ll take it. First time we’ve been here. These guys didn’t want to lose. They were fighting their butts off to win this. I was proud of them. Big win for our program. It’s history for us and but we’re not done.”
After a two-year transition period, the Trailblazers finally got their shot under the bright lights at WAC Vegas.
In an instant classic, the Trailblazers as well as SFA did not disappoint.
Frank Staine got the Trailblazers off and running with a layup. Gooden then went on a little 5-0 run by himself to give the Trailblazers a 7-4 lead. It was all part of an 18-5 run, which gave Utah Tech a 19-9 lead midway through the first half.
Robbie Armbrester’s second-chance bucket started an 11-0 SFA run. Jalil Beaubrun capped the run with a second-chance layup, giving SFA a 20-19 lead with 4:13 left in the half.
However, Utah Tech had a response. Frank Staine’s 3-pointer gave the Trailblazers the lead right back.
That was kind of the story of the final four minutes of the first half. Whether it was a jumper or free throws, the teams traded blows.
Robbie Armbrester capped the first half scoring with a couple of buckets to make it 31-28 at the break.
Armbrester started the second half right where he left off. AJ Cajuste found Armbrester for the alley-oop dunk and we were off and running.
Each team landed blows in the heavyweight fight at Michelob Ultra Arena throughout the second half.
Cam Gooden hit a pair of free throws to give the Trailblazers a 40-34 lead. But, SFA responded a pair of baskets by Nigel Hawkins to keep within striking distance. Day Day Hall’s jumper cut the deficit to two with 12:51 to play.
Hawkins third jumper in as many minutes tied the game at 42.
Back and forth it went. Utah Tech would score. Then, SFA would score.
“Really proud of my guys this year,” SFA head coach Kyle Keller said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity. Probably started about 15 different starting lineups. We didn’t reach the destination we set for ourselves and it’s painful. Painful for all of these players that are representing our team.”
Kyle Hayman’s 3-pointer with 8:07 to play tied the game at 50.
And then it was Utah Tech against Robbie Armbrester. Armbrester knocked down a couple of shots, one to tie the game, and another to cut the deficit to one after a Cam Gooden 3-pointer.
Gooden’s driving layup with 2:28 to play gave Utah Tech a 59-55 lead and it looked like the Trailblazers would spring the upset.
Not so fast.
SFA outscored Utah Tech 7-3 down the stretch. Day Day Hall’s layup in traffic tied things at 62 and that’s how regulation ended.
The first overtime game in the 2023 WAC Tournament took place on Tuesday night at Michelob Ultra Arena.
In the overtime period, it was exactly the same narrative. A street fight with each fighter landing blows. First, it was Dancell Leter with a jumper. But, Day Day Halls knocked down a jumper of his own. Leter then hit a step-back 3-pointers. However, Latrell Jossell hit a 3-pointer of his own.
Blow by blow, fans at Michelob Ultra Arena were treated to a show. It’s Las Vegas, so it fit perfectly.
The biggest play of overtime came with 30 seconds remaining and Utah Tech leading 74-71. Isaiah Pope pulled down a defensive rebound, found Frank Staine in transition for the layup, giving the Trailblazers a 76-71 lead.
It was enough. Staine hit a pair of free throws and Jacob Nicolds hit one of two to seal the big time win for the Trailblazers.
Along with Cam Gooden, Frank Staine, Isaiah Pope and Dancell Leter were also in double figures. Staine finished with 18 points. Pope finished with 14 points. And Leter finished with 12 points. The Trailblazers advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals to play in-state rival Southern Utah.
SFA was led by Latrell Jossell who finished with 17 points. Playing in his final game at SFA, Nigel Hawkins finished with 13 points. Day Day Hall and Robbie Armbrester were both in double figures with 12 points. The Lumberjacks finish the season at 19-13 overall.