Boise State on the other side of the bounce in thrilling Wednesday win

Broncos beat New Mexico for first time, snap three-game skid.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comFebruary 13, 2014 

No longer is a game-ending scene a horror show for the Boise State men’s basketball team.

It turns out happy endings do exist against the Mountain West’s best.

The Broncos, down by 10 with 14 minutes left against New Mexico on Wednesday at Taco Bell Arena, turned the tables — they rallied, they closed, they won — 71-70.

Derrick Marks hit two free throws with 13.4 seconds left as Boise State snapped a three-game losing streak that saw each loss come by six points or less.

“We needed it, for our guys,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They’ve competed at a high level. These things even out, you keep telling them that, that you’ll get the next one if you do the right things. We needed it to come true.”

It counts as one win in the standings, but this victory was a few rolled into one for Boise State (16-9, 6-6).

It was the Broncos’ first win in six tries against the Lobos (18-5, 9-2), who had a six-game winning streak. After leading 42-35 at halftime, it was the first time in 17 games this season that New Mexico has lost after leading at the half.

“We’ve been in a slump a little bit, that was our first win against them, this win kind of gets us back up on our feet,” Marks said.

As the lead changed hands five times and was tied five more in the last 7 minutes, 5 seconds, there was little doubt it was heading to another close finish. The sort of finish the 6,329 in attendance was dreading.

It only made sense that the villain in Boise State’s nightmares against New Mexico had the last shot. Hugh Greenwood, who scored in double figures in four of the prior five games against the Broncos (with only 14 in his other 82 career games), fired off a long jumper in the final seconds.

“I was contesting him and I was like, ‘Man, Hughie shoots like 90 percent against me,’ ” Boise State junior Anthony Drmic said of his fellow Australian.

Rice sat down during the final possession.

“I didn’t even want to watch it,” he said.

But Rice did watch, saying he had “faith in our guys, that they’d do whatever they could to get the stop.” The shot hovered for what he said felt like “15 seconds,” but it missed. The mass of bodies that crashed the basket prevented a putback for 7-footer Alex Kirk, and Taco Bell Arena exhaled.

“We’re a tough group, we never gave in,” Boise State senior Thomas Bropleh said.

The Broncos trailed 54-44 with 14:21 to play, but that toughness showed up against a front line that includes Kirk and 6-9 Cameron Bairstow. Outrebounded 16-13 in the first half, Boise State held a 22-9 rebounding edge in the second half, outscoring New Mexico 7-0 on second-chance points. The Lobos had a season-low two offensive rebounds. Kirk and Bairstow combined for 10 points in the last 20 minutes after posting 23 in the first half.

“We’ve had our hearts ripped out the last three games … there’s a lot of teams that New Mexico would’ve just knocked out,” Rice said.

But Boise State was not about to accept a haymaker. Not after taking so many gut punches in recent weeks.

Bropleh scored all of his 14 points in the second half, and senior Ryan Watkins had eight points and seven rebounds in the final frame, finishing with 12 and 11, respectively. Drmic had a team-high 18 points, and Marks added 11 points and eight assists.

After finishing what Rice called “the toughest four-game stretch in program history,” the Broncos next face Colorado State on the road Tuesday, with six more Mountain West games to go until the pivotal conference tournament.

“It’s the start of a new season for us — it’s the last lap of the mile,” Rice said.

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