Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's Boise State's Turn To Win in the Final Seconds

It has been said that New Mexico creates matchup problems for the Boise State basketball team.

Well, Bronco coach Leon Rice figured out a way to beat the Lobos, as Boise State rallied to tip New Mexico, 71-70 last night in Taco Bell Arena.  Derrick Marks hit two free throws with 13 seconds left, and the Boise State defense held at the other end to preserve the last-second victory.  Boise State had seen more than their share of these type of games get away from them this season, so this one was extra sweet for the hard-working Broncos.

Kendall Williams paced New Mexico with 22 points, while Bairstow threw in 20.  The Lobos saw their six-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Broncos.

Williams drilled a three-pointer with 28 seconds to put his team up 70-69.  Marks then drove inside on Boise State's possession and was fouled; his free throws capped a comeback from 12 points down.

New Mexico, which has dominated Boise State in the past, appeared to be well in command of moving into a share of the Mountain West Conference lead, opening up a 42-30 lead late in the first half.  But the Broncos scored the final five points of the half, then came out in the final stanza and made a game of it.

Rice used his bench extensively and had an unexpected surprise for the Lobos' big men--Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow.  Rice inserted senior Thomas Bropleh into the lineup, with the daunting task of guarding someone six inches taller and 100 pounds heavier.    

Bropleh, whose play has found another level the last few weeks, performed admirably, giving his own big men much-needed rest.  Bropleh also hit four-three pointers, including a banker with the shot clock expiring that clearly affected the New Mexico team, and trimmed the Lobo lead to 60-59 with 8:10 remaining.  

Bropleh scored all 14 points in the second half, and during a stretch of 4:43, Bropleh scored 11 of those.  Anthony Drmic poured in 18 points for Boise State, while Ryan Watkins added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Marks finished with 11.

Watkins hit a jumper to give Boise State its first lead since the opening minutes of the game.  The contest then became a see-saw affair, with Watkins hitting two free throws with 41 seconds left to put Boise State up 69-67.

Marks drained all eight free-throw attempts to move him past former Bronco great Gerry Washington (1995-1999) into seventh place for career free throws at Boise State with 328.  Drmic's three three-pointers moved him out of a tie with Washington for sixth place in career treys (187).

Boise State evened its MWC record at 6-6 while moving to 16-9 overall.  A loss would have made it extremely difficult to earn a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tournament.  The impressive win over the Lobos may also be a factor in postseason tournament consideration for the Broncos.

Kirk had 13 points and nine rebounds for New Mexico (9-2 and 18-5), which lost for just the second time in 13 games.  The Lobos hit 51.2% of their shots, but were outrebounded by the shorter Broncos 35-23.  Led by Watkins, Boise State hauled in 12 offensive rebounds.

Boise State will travel to Colorado State next Tuesday night.