BOISE, Idaho- A battle between the top two teams in the Mountain West Conference lived up to the billing with an exciting finish before San Diego State prevailed 56-53, against Boise State Saturday, at Taco Bell Arena. Down 54-44 with four minutes remaining in the game, the Broncos (13-5, 4-1 MW) mounted a comeback and came up inches away from forcing overtime.
The Aztecs (12-6, 5-0 MW) turned the ball over on six of seven possessions and Boise State scored nine of the final 11 points, including a three-pointer from Nick Duncan with 21 seconds remaining to cut the margin to three.
Winston Shepherd missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity on the ensuing San Diego State possession to give the Broncos one last chance to force overtime. Boise State got two looks from beyond the arc. Nick Duncan’s shot was blocked from the top of the key before the loose ball was fired over to James Webb III whose three-point shot would bounce off the back of the rim, giving San Diego State the 56-53 win in front of a crowd of 10,421 at Taco Bell Arena, the largest crowd of the season.
Duncan’s made triple which provided the final margin was Boise State’s only successful three-point attempt of the night. It continued the Broncos’ now 457-game streak with a three-pointer. The Broncos were 1-of-17 from beyond the arc – the second-worst outing in more than 14 years.
The loss snapped both Boise State’s 10-game win streak, and 17-game home win streak. San Diego State is now in sole possession of first place in the MW.
“You have to credit San Diego State. They came in with great resolve,” said Boise State head coach Leon Rice. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
Boise State limited San Diego State to 1-of-4 from the field, and 0-of-2 from the line in the final four minutes of the game. The Broncos finished the night holding San Diego State to 40.4-percent from the field and forcing 15 turnovers.
“I’m always proud of that,” Rice said. “Our guys are going to keep fighting. Our crowd helped us with that.”
The two teams came out swinging in a physical, defensive battle. The Aztecs were the first to get on the scoreboard off a Zylan Cheatham field goal three minutes and 21 seconds into the game. Both teams were a combined 0-of-9 from the field in that span.
Boise State answered back with a pair of free throws from Chandler Hutchison to make the score 4-2 in favor of San Diego State. The shooting woes would continue through the majority of the first half, with both teams entering the final 3:57 tied at 15.
The Broncos were able to finding their shooting stroke and went into the locker room at halftime with a 26-25 lead, thanks in large part to seven points from Duncan in the final four minutes of the half.
Both teams’ shooting woes would not bleed into the second half, starting a combined 8-of-15 from the field.
The Aztecs took their first lead of the second half on a layup from Cheatham to make the score 39-38 with 13:25 remaining in the game, and never looked back.
“We came back, and I think that was one of the positive signs within this game,” Duncan said. “I don’t think we’ve been playing second halves very well. Obviously the lead went out a little bit, but we came back and played some solid defense at the end with some steals. I think that’s a good positive for us to move forward on.”
James Webb III led all scorers with 17 points and 11 rebounds – his sixth double-double, second consecutive of the season.
Duncan and Hutchison joined Webb III in double-digit scoring with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Boise State was 18-of-19 from the free throw line.