After hanging tough with the San Diego State Aztecs for the early part of the first half, the Broncos let great shooting by the Aztecs, fouls, and turnovers, doom their chances as they fell 87-68 in the Mountain West Conference quarter finals.
Following the women’s basketball upset of no. 1 Colorado State, the men had their chance to continue the good fortune of Bronco basketball. The men’s team needed to win the Mountain West tournament as their only chance of getting an NCAA berth depended on it. Also the success—or perceived “failure”—of the season also requires a favorable outcome in this tournament. Though the Broncos were picked to finish fifth, and ended up third with a good chance of winning the regular season, they fought admirably throughout the regular season to earn the no. 3 seed and the first round bye.
What they would do with that opportunity would be entirely up to them.
The Broncos would hope for the crappy-shooting version of the San Diego State Aztec team. You know the one. The one that scored only 17 points in the first half against UNLV. Or the one that only scored 22 points in the first half against Air Force (SDSU won that game, but still). That Aztecs team could show up. But the question remains would it.
In the opening sequence to the game, all indications were set to “no.” The SDSU team that can not score a lick would not be at this game. The Aztecs jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Nick Duncan could put up a successful three to some points for the Broncos.
The Broncos were able to get within one, 9-8, and then the Aztecs would run off 6 points to take a seven point lead. A Paris Austin layup would begin Boise State’s own 7-point run to tie the game. That tie would last all of twenty seconds as SDSU’s Zylan Cheatham would score two and miss an and-1.
Alex Hobbs would give the Broncos a very brief lead, 20-19, by hitting a sorely-needed three. Not to be outdone Aztecs’ Max Hoetzel responded in kind with his own three to retake the lead.
The Broncos and Aztecs would trade blows until the Broncos take a three-point lead off a Marcus Dickinson three ball, 27-24.
That is where the Aztecs started to cool. After Cheatham hits a pair of free throws (27-26 Broncos), the Aztecs entered a FG drought that last over three minutes. They would not score any points for a shade over two. Meanwhile the Broncos would reel off another five points to take a 32-26 lead (the largest lead at that time for the Broncos). Max Hoetzel would end the Aztec scoring slump by drilling a three.
James Reid would hit a three that would, effectively, end Broncos scoring for a while as the Aztecs would rip off a 10-0 run and take a 39-35 lead with just a shade over a minute left in the first half. Alex Hobbs would do his darnedest to bring the Broncos back by hitting a 2, but Dakarai Allen hits a three before the end of the period. The Aztecs had gone on a 13-2 run to go into the half with a 42-37 lead.
Entering the second half SDSU kept up their scoring with Malik Pope hitting two early free throws. To help save the day, Paris Austin scored on a jumper then collected his fourth rebound (third defensive) after a Malik Pope miss. Austin went to the line to get the Broncos within three, 44-41.
But Aztecs would just not go away as Malik Pope (who did not play in the first matchup in the regular season) popped up another three for SDSU. Despite the Broncos’ efforts, could just not whittle away that seven point lead. At the under seventeen minute mark, the Aztecs had hit 7—SEVEN—of 10 threes. Their best three point average the whole season.
The second half would not be any more kind to the Broncos as the Aztecs would inflate their lead to 59-49. Hutchison would score a quick two to bring the gap back to single-digits.
Then the wheels really came off for the Broncos. So much as to not hit any points for a three minute stretch. The Aztecs would even stretch their lead to 23.
With the Broncos’ hope for an NCAA tournament dashed, they may look to a lower level tournament (NIT most likely out of reach as well) for some extra games. The Broncos had a young team. And somewhat low expectations for the season. This loss is frustrating, but hopefully one they can use to build on going into next season.