SAN DIEGO San Diego State has learned one thing from its short rivalry with Boise State: Games are likely to come down to a final 3-point shot.
Chase Tapley hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left to give San Diego State a 63-62 victory against Boise State on Wednesday night after the Aztecs blew a 17-point first-half lead.
San Diego State (17-5, 5-3 Mountain West) needed Tapley's big shot after being outplayed down the stretch by the Broncos.
"That was my first winning shot in my college career and it came at the right time," Tapley said."I am just happy that we got the win."
The Aztecs dropped out of the AP Top 25 for the second time this season Monday after losing 70-67 at Air Force on Saturday, their third loss in five conference games.
Tapley had missed his previous 12 3-point attempts, over three games.
Mikey Thompson's 3-pointer with 3:16 left gave Boise State a 61-58 lead. Neither team scored until the Aztecs' Jamaal Franklin made a lay-up with 13.5 seconds left. Boise State's Derrick Marks made the first of two free throws but missed the second and Franklin rebounded to set up the winning shot.
"I got down there and Anthony Drmic held on to the ball," Tapley said."I thought they were going to call a jump ball but it kind of rolled out. I grabbed it and did a pass-fake to Jamaal then just shot it with the most confidence. They had a nice shot at the end but it didn't go in."
Thompson took a desperation shot at the buzzer but missed. He and Marks finished with 16 points apiece for Boise State (15-7, 3-5).
"We were right there at the end, but Tapley made a big play," Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
James Rahon scored 16 points for San Diego State while Franklin had 14. Tapley finished his night with 12 and J.J. O'Brien had 10.
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said he didn't like seeing a 17-point lead disappear any more than the fans did, but that Boise State got hot while the Aztecs started missing shots. The Aztecs also missed 10 of 18 free throws.
"I told Leon Rice that his kids played so hard that I know how they feel and how you feel," Fisher said."And it's easy for the winning coach to say that.
"The last guy I saw was Drmic, No. 3, and he had a kind of a sad smile on his face. He said, 'Coach, that's three in a row that you've done like that on us.' Not quite the same fashion, but we've played them four times and beaten them four times, and three of them have been dramatic like that," Fisher said.
When the teams played at San Diego last year, the Aztecs rallied from 12 points down and then watched as a 3-pointer by wide-open Thomas Bropleh rimmed out at the buzzer of the Aztecs' 58-56 win.
In the Mountain West Conference tournament opener, Franklin made an off-balance 3-pointer over a double-team at the buzzer to give top-seeded Aztecs a 65-62 victory.
San Diego State had a 17-point lead in the first half and was up 10 at halftime before Marks scored seven straight points early in the second half to key Boise State's comeback.
The Broncos took their first lead of the game, 56-54, on Marks' 3-pointer with 5:41 left.
DeShawn Stephens tied it with an inside shot before Ryan Watkins hit a bank shot to give the lead back to the Broncos. Franklin made a reverse lay-up before Thompson quieted Viejas Arena with a 3-pointer for a 61-58 Boise State lead.
With the Aztecs leading 47-41, Marks was whistled for a flagrant foul for dragging down Franklin from behind on a lay-up attempt. Franklin missed both free throws and Thompson hit a 3-pointer as Boise State closed to 47-44.
San Diego State took a 34-17 lead after DeShawn Stephens converted a three-point play with 5:57 to go before halftime. O'Brien's strong inside play and two 3-pointers by Rahon helped the Aztecs take control.
Boise State then outscored the Aztecs 11-4 the rest of the half to close to 38-28 at halftime. Thompson scored five points, including a 3-pointer, and Kenny Buckner made two buckets for the Broncos.
The Aztecs were once again without point guard Xavier Thames, who's been slowed by a back injury.