No shot was deadlier Friday than the one taken 15 feet away.
Heading on the road for a season opener for the first time since 2006, the Boise State men’s basketball team attempted 12 free throws at Dahlberg Arena. The Montana Grizzlies tried 36.
Such a disparity was bound to be a factor.
“It was a problem, more than a factor,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Make that the factor.
Montana made 25 freebies. Boise State made eight. The Broncos led most of the second half, lost the lead late and fell 74-72.
“They battled, they did all they could, but that one’s on me for scheduling this game,” Rice said.
The Broncos led 63-54 with 8:26 left to play, thanks to an offense that shot 56 percent (28-of-50). But the Griz kept chipping away, going to the line three times to the Broncos’ zero in the next 6 minutes, taking a 70-69 lead with 2:01 left on a Brandon Gfeller 3-pointer. Boise State senior guard Mikey Thompson hit a pair of free throws with 1:10 left, but Montana tied it when Michael Oguine made 1-of-2 free throws 9 seconds later.
Montana, the preseason Big Sky favorite, grabbed the offensive rebound, and Martin Breunig’s layup with 37 seconds left gave the Griz a 73-71 edge and enough to win.
“We let it slip out of our hands,” junior forward Nick Duncan said. “We have to learn from the calls, see what’s a foul and what isn’t.”
Naturally, foul trouble hit the Broncos hard.
Junior forward James Webb III, last season’s Mountain West newcomer of the year, played just 17 minutes, fouling out with 3:37 to play and the Broncos holding a 67-63 lead. He finished with six points, two rebounds and a block.
“In close games like this, you need a guy like that out there, and him fouling out, only playing 17 minutes, it changes the gameplan,” Duncan said, with Rice calling it “a big bind.”
In his first game back after playing seven games last season, senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic had a game-high 23 points, at one point hitting three straight 3-pointers to get a 57-48 lead with 10:45 remaining. Montana made eight of its nine field goal attempts after that, however. Drmic sat the final 8:25 of the first half, along with Webb, who missed the last 11:34.
With the top two players on the bench, the Broncos still went into the half with a 38-33 lead thanks to its bench, which had 21 first-half points, shooting 9-of-11 from the field. Thompson led the way with eight points and was the only other Boise State scorer in double figures with 15.
“Being ready at all times, knowing your role, and when our star players went out, we had to take an advantage,” Thompson said.
Montana shot 20 free throws in the second half to the Broncos’ five. Duncan had a 3-pointer rattle out with 1.9 seconds left in an attempt to tie before Drmic was fouled rebounding, making 1-of-2 free throws to end the game.
“This team will get better and they’ll figure how to get out of these situations, even if they are stacked against them,” Rice said.
Boise State plays Northern Arizona in its home opener at 7 p.m. Monday.
BOISE STATE WOMEN WIN HOME OPENER
Miquelle Askew scored a team-high 20 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and pulled down a team-best eight rebounds to lead the Broncos to a 58-44 victory over Division II Cal State Los Angeles on Friday night in Bronco Gym.
The first half was close with CSULA coming back from a seven-point deficit to tie the game at 23-23, though the Broncos closed out the half with a 7-0 run. Boise State opened the second half on a 5-0 run and never trailed.
Yaiza Rodriguez Ortego finished the game with eight points, three rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Brooke Pahukoa finished with four points, seven boards, two assists and team-high three steals.
Marta Hermida, a freshman from Spain, played solid in her Boise State debut, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting with two 3-pointers. She also added seven rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Five other Broncos debuted for Boise State, including freshman Joyce Harrell, who played 21 minutes and finished with four points and five rebounds. Redshirt freshman Marijke Vanderschaaf had two points and three rebounds in five minutes. Jordan Tully played five minutes and tallied four points, two boards, one assist and one steal. Leonie Edringer and Ella Fotu also played.
Boise State returns to action Monday, hosting the College of Charleston at 4 p.m. in the first game of a Taco Bell Arena doubleheader with the men.
Doubleheader at Taco Bell Arena
▪ Boise State women vs. College of Charleston, 4 p.m.
▪ Boise State men vs. Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.
Boise State Fans Guide
▪ Profiles on the men’s and women’s teams
▪ Rosters for both teams and players to watch
▪ Schedules and fan facts
Coming Monday in the Idaho Statesman and IdahoStatesman.com