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Utah State women's basketball coach Raegan Pebley looks on from the sideline during the Aggies' second-round game at the WAC Women's Basketball Tournament Thursday in Las Vegas.

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Utah State's women's basketball team - fresh off a loss to Fresno State in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament - was back on the practice court Monday.

"We were definitely practicing with the intent to continue to play," said junior forward Ashlee Brown, who was tabbed the WAC Newcomer of the Year.

Brown and the Aggies will get to do just that - play on.

That's because USU received an automatic bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament late Monday night. This is the Aggies' first postseason appearance since the 1981-82 campaign.

"This is a big step for our program to be invited to the WNIT," USU head coach Raegan Pebley said. "Our team has worked so hard and has been so committed to our goal of postseason play. Our mentality is not just to participate. Our mentality is to win, which is exactly where it needs to be."

To make this postseason even more special for the Aggies is the fact they get to host a first-round game. USU welcomes Arizona to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Thursday. Tip-off is slated for 5:30 p.m.

"That is really, really cool," Pebley said of hosting the game. "It's great for our fans to be able to experience that, and we're going to really need to use that home-court advantage. We need to be able to capitalize off of it, so we need the Spectrum as packed as we can get it. This is a huge deal."

Following the game, fans are encouraged to stay at the Spectrum to watch the USU men take on Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament. The 12th-seeded Aggies will be taking on the fifth-seeded Wildcats in Tucson, Ariz., at 7:57 p.m. MST.

"They're working on creating a promotion where people can stay after our game and they'll feed the men's game into the Spectrum onto the big screen," Pebley said.

Not only is senior Alice Coddington excited to prolong her career as an Aggie, but she's looking forward to be playing at home again.

"It's great, I love playing in the Spectrum," Coddington said. "I think we play really well in the Spectrum. Our team this year has done really good at the Spectrum, and it's always been good to us.

"To host a team like Arizona in the Spectrum is going to be good, not only for the first round in the WNIT for us, but for this program as a whole."

The Aggies (17-14) earned the automatic bid as the highest finishing WAC team that was not selected to the NCAA Tournament. USU finished in third place in the WAC and fell to eventual champion Fresno State in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament.

"The home bid was great," Brown said. "We're excited to play Arizona and I'm from Arizona. ... They're a good team and we're a good team, as well.

"You can't really beat home-court advantage."

Arizona finished fourth in the Pac-10 and fell to Stanford in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament. The Wildcats (21-11) have won eight of their last 10 games.

"Obviously, we are excited our season continues," Arizona head coach Niya Butts said. "We want another chance to take the court and become a better basketball team. We're looking forward to the opportunity to play Utah State. They play a competitive WAC schedule, and I think we'll match up well with them."

The Aggies are 5-4 all-time against Arizona. The last time these two schools met was Dec. 4, 1986, when the Wildcats rolled to a 75-41 victory.

The last time USU reached postseason play was when it participated in the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) Region VII Championships.

"We're just excited to keep playing as a team because we think we have a good group because the chemistry is there," Brown said "So, we were excited to get back in the gym and just work on those little things we need."

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