DAYTON, Ohio - La Salle couldn't miss, and Boise State could do little to stop it.
In the biggest game in years for both teams, the Explorers shot a season-best 63.3 percent from the field, and the Broncos couldn't recover from an early drought.
In its first NCAA Tournament game in 21 years, La Salle took the 80-71 win in the first-round matchup, ending Boise State's season.
"They had a hell of night, all credit to La Salle, but defense is where it starts - and we didn't come to play defensively," Boise State sophomore wing Anthony Drmic said. "We couldn't stop them from driving, weren't getting after the shooters, so not very happy with that effort."
La Salle hit layups, 3-pointers, contested shots and open looks to the tune of 72.7 percent (16-of-22) in the second half.
"We tried zoning them, we tried trapping them, we tried pressing them. ... they kind of had an answer for everything we did," Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Yet somehow, someway, Boise State (21-11) found itself in striking distance late in its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team.
The Broncos cut a 14-point deficit with 5 minutes, 20 seconds to play down to six with 1:18 to play, and sent forward Kenny Buckner to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1. He missed the first, and the Broncos never got close again.
"It hurt," Buckner said. "We were making a little run, I could've cut the lead, time was running out."
A Sam Mills' 3-pointer gave the Explorers (22-9) the lead for good when he made it 8-6 with 4:32 elapsed. La Salle made 11 of its next 13 shots to get up 31-17, and turned nine Boise State turnovers into 14 points by then.
"They just kind of got on a roll, and it put way too much pressure on our offense, no matter how good our offense was going to be," Rice said.
Inside or outside, the Broncos had no answers for the Explorers' depth - four players scored at least 13 points, and those four shot a combined 73.7 percent from the field. Guard Tyrone Garland, who Rice said was "the quickest player we've probably faced," came off the bench to score 22 points and was 9-of-11 from the field. His only two misses were 3-pointers.
"When you have guys off the bench that are good enough to start at other places, you have a chance to be really good," La Salle coach John Giannini said.
At times, the Broncos' offense looked like the one it showed most of the season. Drmic led Boise State with the best scoring performance in the school's six NCAA Tournament, scoring 28 points, but the Broncos missed nine of their last 13 attempts to end the game.
"It doesn't matter when you don't play defense," Drmic said. "If you're scoring on one end and can't get stops on the other, it doesn't matter.
"I mean, I tried. We all tried."
Guard Derrick Marks had 12 points in the second half, but there wasn't the same sort of second-half magic the team produced at other times.
"We didn't keep it close enough," Rice said.
After a season that saw the Broncos beat two ranked road teams after having done it once in history, and with a team that loses only one senior in Buckner, the team quickly set its sights forward.
"It's been a good season, and all we can do is work hard this offseason, and we're just going to come back here next year," Marks said.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420