Boise State’s departing trio of Nick Duncan, James Reid and Matt Grooms didn’t get the Taco Bell Arena sendoff they envisioned on Senior Night.
The Broncos cut a 14-point second-half deficit against Fresno State to three behind 13 second-half points from Paris Austin and nine from Marcus Dickinson. But the Bulldogs’ Deshon Taylor scored 12 second-half points, including a back-breaking 3-pointer with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left that sent Fresno State to a 74-67 victory.
“It hurts. We owe those (seniors) a lot … everything they taught us,” freshman guard Alex Hobbs said. “I’m really hurting right now for those guys, that we had to end it this way.”
Boise State’s loss ensures that Colorado State (21-9, 13-4) or Nevada (23-6, 12-4) will win the Mountain West regular-season title. Those teams meet in the regular season finale Saturday in Reno, after the Wolf Pack play at San Jose State on Wednesday.
The Broncos (18-10, 11-6) can finish no higher than a tie for second in the final standings. They finish the regular season at Air Force (11-18, 4-12) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“We battled a long time and hung in there to try and win that thing,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “It’s a long race, and I think we kind of came out of the gate like tired horses, for whatever reason. ... Fresno went and made plays when they had to make plays.”
The defeat was Boise State’s third conference home loss of the season, which is the most since the 2013-14 season. The Broncos finished the season 11-3 at home.
Hobbs and Zach Haney added a combined 16 second-half points for Boise State, which is in a battle with Fresno State (18-11, 10-7) for the third seed at next week’s Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.
Austin led the Broncos with 17 points and Dickinson finished with 10.
“I think I’d be lying to you if I said this didn’t really hurt,” Hobbs said.
Fresno State scored the first six points of the second half and led 55-52 with 7:38 remaining after a 3-pointer from Dickinson capped off a 7-0 Boise State run. Redshirt junior Jaron Hopkins responded by scoring eight points in the final 7:18 for Fresno State and sealed the game with a pair of thunderous dunks.
“It’s very disappointing, but there’s nothing we can do,” Dickinson said. “We just have to move ahead. We still have a chance to win a (MW Tournament) championship.”
Taylor led Fresno State with 26 points, while Hopkins and Paul Watson finished with 18 apiece. Taylor scored 14 of his points in the second half.
Boise State committed 15 turnovers, with nine coming in the first half. The Broncos were outscored in the paint 36-28 and Fresno State forced 11 steals en route to 19 points off turnovers.
“(Assistant) coach (Phil) Beckner, before the game and the whole week, (when) we were preparing for (Fresno State), he kept mentioning how we needed to be strong with the ball because they are going to be the aggressor and try to take the ball away from us,” Dickinson said. “I think we could have done a lot better job of being strong with the ball and I think that made a big difference with them getting fast-break points.”
Boise State took a 19-17 first-half lead on an Austin layup but was outscored 16-7 over the final 7:18 minutes and trailed 33-26 at halftime. Taylor and Watson scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the first half.
Junior guard Chandler Hutchison had six at the half to lead the Broncos, who were 2-of-8 from 3-point range before halftime and 5-of-10 after. Hutchison finished with a season-low seven points and committed six turnovers.
“He got a little rattled. Their quickness rattled him, their active hands rattled him, and it probably caused him to press a little bit,” Rice said. “That bothered him.
“We have to get our mojo back. (Air Force is) a brutal place to play. The thing you can count on is they’re going to play really hard.”
Notes: Fresno State earned its first win in Boise since 2004. ... Tuesday was the second time in 28 games this season Hutchison was held to single digits, and the first time since Nov. 28, at Oregon, snapping a streak of 21 consecutive games.