Boise State beats Aztecs 42-37 in ugly game

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After checking vaccination cards for booster shots, Viejas Arena staff should have distributed goggles to all fans.

Inside, splinters of rust were flying everywhere.

Two weeks after their best game of the season, a 30-point win over then-No. 20 and undefeated at Colorado State, the Aztecs played their worst game – ending their 16-game winning streak at home with a 42-37- Loss to a Boise State team playing their third game in five days and fourth in eight.

Yes, you read that right: 42-37.

Thirty seven points.

For a whole game.

At home.

The Aztecs (10-4, 2-1) had not played for two weeks after most of the team tested positive for COVID-19 and went into forced sleep. The full squad returned to training on Monday and looked good all week. Then they walked on the floor looking like they hadn’t shot a basketball or played an offensive game in weeks, months, years, maybe decades.

In other words, you won’t win many games if you don’t score for almost six minutes early in the game and don’t make a basket for ten minutes early in the second half.

In other words, the Aztecs scored 43 goals in the second half against Colorado State… and 14 on Saturday.

Or another: It was their lowest offensive performance since a 49-36 loss in Washington in 2014.

“It’s frustrating,” second guard Lamont Butler said. “We all had a rhythm, we finally started playing well together and we had to take that break. … It was just a rusty game. We’ll be good.”

The loss also ended a streak of 23 wins when he led at halftime, 16 against the Mountain West competition and six against Boise State (and five in a row since former Broncos assistant Chris Acker defected to Montezuma Mesa in 2019 and won the scouting report edited).

A streak that didn’t end: The Broncos (15-4) now have 12 straight wins and took control of Mountain West 6-0.

“It was a pretty tough opponent to play the first second leg,” said coach Brian Dutcher. “We didn’t go for it. We played against a team that won 11 times in a row. We had to be at our best and obviously we weren’t at our best.”

The defense wasn’t rusty, keeping the Broncos at 31.1 percent shooting and nearly 10 minutes without a second-half point and just six offensive rebounds (half their average). That got them back in the game from 11 behind and put them up 37-35 within three minutes.

But the team with their legs rested would never score again. The exhausted team scored seven points and that was your ball game.

The dagger came from senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr., a step-back 3 with 30 seconds left to break a 37-37 tie. If it sounded familiar, it was. Two nights earlier in Utah State, he hit a similar shot by 1.7 seconds despite being 0 of 10.

“We knew where it was going, we knew what shot was going to be made,” Dutcher said, “and to his credit and Boise’s credit, he made it.”

SDSU called Timeout, but whatever game was designed was blown up by a veteran Broncos team who, as Dutcher said, “sniffed it out.” Instead, Matt Bradley got the ball up front and jacked up a deep, contested 3 against Abu Kigab.

It hit nothing.

Bradley had a tough night with the 6ft 7 kigab staying in front of him, shooting 3 of 13 (1 of 6 from behind the arc) and finishing with seven points. Nathan Mensah and Lamont Butler each had 10 points. No one else had more than three, as the Aztecs shot 28.1 percent overall and 4 of 19 from deep.

They made 15 free throws against Colorado State. Saturday: 1 of 5.

That sounds like a stat line from Boise State going into night 357th of 358 Division I teams on a 59 percent free throw accuracy – and then walked 9 of 11 off the line, including a pair from freshman Tyson Degenhart (14 points) to seal it after Bradley missed 3.

Broncos coach Leon Rice just shrugged.

“Adrenaline and experience,” Rice said of her on-track formula. “We’ve played in so many close games, so many grinder games. I told the team in November that I need to be more comfortable in games like this because that’s who we are. It’s like, ‘This is a wreck, we only have 40 points, we can’t win this game.’ Now I’m comfortable with it and they’re comfortable with it.

“That’s the maturity of a good defensive team because you can miss shots, miss free throws, turn the ball around – it doesn’t matter, you just keep playing and you find a way.”

The Aztecs know the drill. They won games like this all season long because they knew there would be a night when it finally bit them.

Traditionally, fans in the Viejas Arena stand up at the start of games and clap until the Aztecs score. On Saturday night they stood and clapped for…a…while.

They did it when the Aztecs lost possession on two of their first three possessions, when officials stopped the game because the shot clock froze, when the Aztecs missed six, seven, eight shots, by a Boise State timed, by a media timed out.

The first points finally came at 14:08 in the first half after Mensah missed a contested shot inside, reaching up to grab the rebound and the ball trickling over the rim.

That was nothing. It took more than 10 minutes — 10 — to make a basket in the second half after clinking their first 11 shots, and the Broncos pushed the lead to 35-24, which feels more like a 31-pointer this game -Protrusion than 11 felt.

SDSU entered the night seventh nationally on Kenpom’s defensive efficiency metric. Boise State finished 14thth.

After knocking each other out, they rose to third and ninth place respectively.

“Both teams are in the defensive elite and that’s what it looked like,” said Dutcher, whose team has little time to fret about UNLV’s coming to the Viejas Arena on Monday night. “I looked at the media timeout with 11 points to go and we had a point in the second half (on a free throw). I said, ‘I have to find a way to put you in better positions, but sometimes you just have to find a way to make a basket – whether it’s a put back or something.’

“Baskets were expensive.”

Remarks

Just as SDSU seemed to be releasing its curse on CBS, it drops a game televised by CBS Sports Network. The Aztecs were 26-1 in their last 27 games on the network’s junior channel…The 42 points were the fewest SDSU allowed against a Mountain West opponent since the Air Force scored 37 in 2017…The Aztecs finished with nine offensive boards but none in the second half. They’re now 0-4 if they rebound (Boise State had a 39-33 lead)…SDSU’s 13-0 run in the second half was the second-longest of the season…Degenhart had 12 of his game-high 14 points in of the second half and was 8-of-8 at the line…Broncos junior Max Rice, the head coach’s son, made a 3-point shot after entering night 1-of-24 from the deep this season.. Keshad Johnson missed all six shots he attempted and played a season-low 16 minutes.

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