WAC tournament rocked by upsets in quarterfinals
Las Vegas •Kannon Burrage said he never saw his UT San Antonio squad as a David coming up against Goliath.
When the Roadrunners earned a chance to play top-seeded Louisiana Tech, he didn't see one team looming high above another. And that was key in engineering a 73-67 victory that stunned the rest of the field, if not him.
"Everyone in that locker room believed we could do it, first and foremost," Burrage said. "That's just the beauty of March."
March Madness took up residence in Orleans Arena on Thursday night, as upsets were the craze of the day. The WAC's top two seeds, Louisiana Tech and Denver, were unceremoniously bumped from the conference tournament in the quarterfinal round by two first-year squads from Texas that finished near the bottom of the standings.
The biggest seeding upset was UTSA (9-21) topping the Bulldogs (26-6), who beat the Roadrunners by 25 just over a month ago. Burrage led with 26 points, and Michael Hale III added 17 as the duo helped break down the Louisiana Tech press. The Roadrunners also piled up a plus-13 rebound margin.
The other surprise of the day happened the game before, as No. 2 Denver was rocked by Texas State, 72-68, and a herculian effort from Joel Wright. The junior forward had 32 points and went 14 for 16 from the free-throw line to help stave off a Denver rally.
It was the first time the two top seeds had been knocked out of the quarterfinals in the WAC Tournament since 1990, when No. 9 seed Air Force beat top seed Colorado State, and No. 7 Utah beat No. 2 BYU.
Former USU assistant falls to NMSU
Don Verlin began the day looking for his first WAC Tournament win. He ended the day still looking, probably never to find it.
The former Utah State assistant tried to rally his Idaho squad against a bigger, stronger New Mexico State, but fell 65-49 in the first game of the afternoon. The loss puts Verlin at 0-5 as a head coach in the WAC Tournament, and with the Vandals moving to the Big Sky next year, it would seem the door has closed on the opportunity to win one.
WAC player of the year Kyle Barone scored 19 for Idaho in a bid to extend his senior year.
"It's tough when it ends, no question about it, especially when you've coached a guy like the one to my right," said Verlin of Barone.