No escape for Boise State against Saint Mary's

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comDecember 15, 2013 

Boise State’s fans saw a familiar sight — shot after shot finding the net from long range, but the difference Saturday was who was making them.

Saint Mary’s, unbeaten and in its first road game of the season, made 11 of its first 14 field goals and led the Broncos by as many as 16 points in the first half.

Though Boise State scratched and clawed its way to a brief lead just after halftime, the Gaels’ offensive barrage was too much as they took the 82-74 win.

It was the second straight loss for Boise State and ended the Broncos’ 26-game nonconference home winning streak in front of a season-high crowd of 8,234 at Taco Bell Arena.

“You can’t really dig a hole against a good team like that,” Boise State senior Jeff Elorriaga said. “They make you pay for mistakes, and they did (Saturday). It’s tough to dig a hole and get back out.”

The Gaels (8-0) hit 12-of-23 3-pointers in the game, and most were gut punches for the Broncos (8-2). Saint Mary’s hit seven en route to a 36-20 lead with 8 minutes, 18 seconds left to go in the first half.

The last was the haymaker.

Leading 70-69 coming out of a timeout after a missed Anthony Drmic free throw, the Gaels’ Beau Levesque was wide open for a 3-pointer on the ensuing play, and he nailed it with 1:21 to go. Boise State never got within three points again.

“They gave us a good shot, we answered, then they answered, then we came back. It was down to one possession, and we weren’t able to get a stop on it,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.

For as bad as things looked early on for the home-standing Broncos, they turned a 36-20 deficit into a 46-44 deficit going into the half.

The Broncos kept some momentum, gaining a 50-48 edge with 18:14 to play, but the Gaels responded with a 14-2 run to get up by 10. Again, Boise State rallied to cut it to just one on Drmic’s basket and foul, but Saint Mary’s responded and kept the Broncos at bay the rest of the way.

“We had to play at a high level to get that win,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “They shot it well. They’re a load to guard, that’s all I know. We got up 16, and before you know it we’re up two at half.”

Derrick Marks had 22 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Broncos, while Elorriaga added 20 points. Drmic had six points, and the Broncos fell to 3-15 when he doesn’t score in double digits.

In a game that saw the season’s biggest crowd, a team coming in ranked in the top 10 in the RPI, and the Broncos’ new football coach, Bryan Harsin, introduced at half, the team knew a big opportunity was missed.

“You want to protect your home court,” Elorriaga said. “That would’ve been a good RPI win for us; I know they’re high up there. We let one get away.”

Stephen Holt, Elorriaga’s high school teammate, had a game-high 24 points, 16 of them in the first six minutes.

“He’s never done that in his life. … When he did that, I said ‘Stephen, why didn’t you do this in high school?’” Elorriaga said.

The Broncos will have a week between games. They won’t take the floor again until Dec. 22 at Hawaii in the Diamond Head Classic. A win in that game and a Saint Mary’s win over South Carolina that day would provide a rematch Dec. 23.

“We can’t come out and get down 16 points against teams like this,” Marks said. “Usually, it’s not going to work out for us, so we have to learn from it and know we can’t come out like that anymore.”

BRONCO WOMEN LOSE LEAD, GAME

Boise State held a 12-point lead in the first half and did not trail until less than 12 minutes to play. However, the Broncos hit a cold snap at an inopportune time and fell 76-70 to San Francisco on Saturday.

With 9:55 to play, the Broncos and Dons were tied 53-53, but the Broncos made one of their next 11 shots and never led again.

“No question, those are areas we’ve got to get better at,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said.

The Dons (4-5) went to the line 29 times, making 23. Boise State (4-5) was 13-of-17 at the line. The Broncos also had to often use even more freshmen than usual with top scorers Miquelle Askew and Lexie Der in foul trouble. They played 23 and 29 minutes, respectively.

Askew had 13 points before fouling out in the waning seconds, while Der had 11 points and seven rebounds. Freshman Yaiza Rodriguez had 12 points.

“It’s somewhat frustrating — we’ve been working on talking and getting our intensity up. It was really high, and once it drops, we could never get it back up,” Askew said.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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