Boise State’s dreams of an NCAA Tournament berth all but died in Las Vegas.
Maybe the NIT, too.
Sixth-seeded San Diego State, normally a 31.1 percent shooting team from 3-point range, went 9-for-14 on Thursday night against the third-seeded Broncos, who lost 87-68 in a Mountain West Tournament quarterfinal at Thomas & Mack Center.
San Diego State’s Malik Pope tied his career-high with 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Aztecs (19-13), who advance to play Colorado State (21-10) in a semifinal at 10:30 p.m. Friday. Max Hoetzel added a career-high 21 points off the bench on 5-for-6 shooting from 3-point range.
It is the second straight year that a third-seeded Boise State team has been upset by a No. 6 seed in the Mountain West quarterfinals.
The Broncos are 19-11 and will learn their postseason fate Sunday.
“Obviously, they’re a very athletic team,” Boise State senior Nick Duncan said. “They just came in and played harder than us.”
One day after scoring 14 first-half points against UNLV, San Diego State outshot Boise State 55-45 percent, outrebounded the Broncos 35-20 and outscored them 16-7 in points off turnovers.
It was a far cry from the Aztec team that was dominated 78-66 on Jan. 8 at Taco Bell Arena. Pope, who came into Thursday’s quarterfinal averaging 10.2 points per game, did not play in the first matchup between the teams.
“I wouldn’t say (it caught us) off guard. Maybe a little bit. But they came out hitting shots that ... we weren’t expecting them to hit,” freshman guard Alex Hobbs said. “Every offensive rebound they got, it seemed like they scored off it.”
The Aztecs used a 12-3 run in the second half and a 13-2 run at the end of the first half to surge past the Broncos, who lost the second-chance points battle 21-4 and notched 10 assists after tallying 23 last Saturday at Air Force.
San Diego State led for more than 32 minutes.
“We didn’t regroup the way we needed to, and we kind of let it get to us,” said junior Chandler Hutchison, who scored eight points on 4-for-13 shooting. “A little bit of doubt crept in there. And they just kept making plays.”
The Broncos led by six points with five minutes left in the first half but went scoreless for nearly three minutes as San Diego State made its first move. Boise State trailed by five points at the half, but was outscored 45-31 in the second half and trailed by 22 with one minute, 47 seconds left to play.
San Diego State shot 62.5 percent from the field in the second half.
“Malik’s probably one of the (most) gifted athletes in the conference. He showed that and he came out and played harder than us,” Duncan said. “We left him open, that helped them out a fair bit. But they’re great players, and they turned up tonight and did what they do. ... Credit to them.”
Duncan and sophomore Paris Austin led Boise State with 15 points each. Hobbs scored 12 points and redshirt senior James Reid added 10. Hutchison’s eight points tied for his second-lowest scoring output of the season and was just the third time this season he has been held to less than 10 points.
Boise State will likely learn its postseason destination, if any, Sunday. In previous years, players and coaches have met to decide if the team would play in a postseason tournament. The Broncos declined an invitation to the Las Vegas 16 last season.
“We really believed we could do something special in this tournament. We let this one get away from us,” Hutchison said. “Ultimately, (playing in the postseason) is going to be up to our seniors. ... It’s just going to come down to really what they want to do and if we feel like we can make a run, because the biggest thing is, we’re not going to do something that guys just want to have fun in. It would be, (our) purpose is to win. We have to decide if that’s our mindset.”
If Duncan, the senior leader, has anything to say about it, he will get another game in Boise State blue and orange.
“This is probably one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on, in terms of cohesion, loving each other, always sacrificing for each other,” Duncan said. “I bet every single one of us would want to play an extra game with each other.”
The NIT selection show airs at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
If it was Duncan’s final game as a Bronco, Rice let him know how much he meant to the program at the post-game press conference.
“(Duncan) knows I don’t want to talk about it. And it was a tough way to go out. I’m really proud of these guys. And then he just handles all the questions, and does it all for us. (It) just shows you why this team won games,” Rice said with tears in his eyes. “(I) don’t mean to break down up here, but these guys are amazing. And no matter what circumstances they face, they’re always amazing.”
NOTES: Boise State is 0-3 all-time against San Diego State in the Mountain West Tournament, suffering losses in the quarterfinals in 2012, 2013 and 2017. ... The 19-point loss is Boise State’s widest margin of defeat in a conference tournament since a 24-point loss to Utah State at the 2010 WAC Tournament (84-60). ... Hutchison is the first player in program history to tally at least 500 points, 200 rebounds and 75 assists in a season. He has 506 points this season, registering the 20th 500-point season in program history (13th Bronco to reach the milestone). His 506 points rank No. 18 on the all-time single-season list.
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT
At Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
Game 1: Utah St. 90, San Jose St. 64
Game 2: Air Force 83, Wyoming 68
Game 3: San Diego St. 62, UNLV 52
Game 4: Nevada 83, Utah St. 69
Game 5: Fresno St. 65, New Mexico 60
Game 6: Colorado St. 81, Air Force 55
Game 7: San Diego State 87, Boise State 68
Game 8: Nevada vs. Fresno St., 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
Game 9: San Diego St. vs. Colorado St., 10:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Game 10: Winner 8 vs. Winner 9, 4 p.m. (CBS)
San Diego State 87, Boise State 68
SAN DIEGO STATE (19-13)
POPE, Malik 7-14 7-8 22; HOETZEL, Max 7-8 2-3 21; HEMSLEY, Jeremy 4-7 0-4 10; KELL, Trey 3-14 4-5 10; ALLEN, Dakarai 2-2 4-8 9; CHEATHAM, Zylan 3-3 3-5 9; SHRIGLEY, Matt 1-1 0-0 2; IZUNDU, Valentine 1-1 0-0 2; WILLIAMS, D'Erryl 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 29-53 20-33 87.
BOISE STATE (19-11)
DUNCAN, Nick 5-9 0-0 15; AUSTIN, Paris 4-10 7-8 15; HOBBS, Alex 4-5 3-4 12; REID, James 4-6 0-0 10; HUTCHISON, Chandler 4-13 0-0 8; DICKINSON, Marcus 1-3 0-0 3; WACKER, David 1-1 1-2 3; JESSUP, Justinian 0-2 2-2 2; HANEY, Zach 0-2 0-0 0; JORCH, Robin 0-0 0-0 0; HARWELL, Malek 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 13-16 68.
San Diego State: 42 45 - 87
Boise State: 37 31 - 68
3-point goals--San Diego State 9-14 (HOETZEL, Max 5-6; HEMSLEY, Jeremy 2-3; POPE, Malik 1-1; ALLEN, Dakarai 1-1; KELL, Trey 0-3), Boise State 9-20 (DUNCAN, Nick 5-8; REID, James 2-3; DICKINSON, Marcus 1-2; HOBBS, Alex 1-1; JESSUP, Justinian 0-2; HANEY, Zach 0-1; HUTCHISON, Chandler 0-2; AUSTIN, Paris 0-1). Fouled out--San Diego State-HEMSLEY, Jeremy, Boise State-None. Rebounds--San Diego State 37 (POPE, Malik 10), Boise State 23 (AUSTIN, Paris 4; HUTCHISON, Chandler 4). Assists--San Diego State 15 (KELL, Trey 5), Boise State 10 (JESSUP, Justinian 3; AUSTIN, Paris 3). Total fouls--San Diego State 15, Boise State 26. Technical fouls--San Diego State-None, Boise State-None.