There is no doubt Boise State can give any of the top teams in college basketball a run for their money. Just a few more solid minutes, and the Broncos won’t be on the losing side.
Against No. 3 Michigan State in the Wooden Legacy semifinals Friday at Titan Gym, Boise State was in striking distance until a run of fouls sparked a Spartans’ resurgence on their way to the 77-67 win.
Like the Broncos’ 88-76 loss at No. 11 Arizona on Nov. 19, it was a battle against one of the sport’s blue bloods, with the final score hardly telling the story.
“We’re playing a lot of good minutes against these good teams, but we’ve got to get that thing where we’re playing 40 minutes against good teams,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “That’s the standard, and that’s the benefit of playing games like this in November, because it’s going to make us better.”
Next, the Broncos will face Arizona on Sunday in Anaheim, Calif. The Wildcats lost to Providence 69-65 late Friday night.
Though a three-minute run was what separated the Broncos (3-3) and the Spartans (6-0), it was 43 seconds that made all the difference.
Trailing Michigan State 43-42 with 13:57 to play, Boise State senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic was called for a foul.
Thirteen seconds later, junior forward James Webb III picked up his fourth foul.
Nine seconds later, junior forward Nick Duncan had a whistle go against him.
Five seconds after that, Michigan State All-American guard Denzel Valentine hit a 3-pointer.
On the other end, 16 seconds later, Duncan was called for a charge. Valentine answered with another 3, and then another. And another. He had 15 points in 2:20, hitting three free throws to give the Spartans a 58-46 edge with 11:10 to play.
“You run out of timeouts against teams like that, which can go on those runs, and we were a little fatigued, I think,” Rice said. “A few more smart plays during those runs, and we’re in it against teams like this.”
Valentine wound up with a career-high 32 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists against the Broncos the day after he posted a triple-double against Boston College.
“We were waiting for him to miss, but he didn’t,” Duncan said. “We were playing the game plan we had, but he was just hitting some great shots. He’s a great player. Those four 3s really hurt.”
Said Valentine: “Once I saw the first 3-pointer drop, I got this adrenaline rush, and I felt that every shot I took was going to be good.”
Boise State moved within six on a Montigo Alford 3-pointer that made it 65-59 with 5:24 to play, but the Broncos missed their next four field goals over the next 4:58.
The Broncos showed early in the game they wouldn’t roll over, getting up 21-14 with 6:30 left in the first half after creating six turnovers in the first 8:20. The Spartans responded with a 17-3 run, capped off by a 3-pointer from, you guessed it, Valentine.
“With them, you’re not knocking them out with one punch,” Rice said.
Duncan continued his solid start to the season, pouring in a team-high 19 points.
“They are a hard team to prepare for in one night because they have bigs that can step out and shoot it,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Friday.
Senior guard Mikey Thompson added 17 points and tied his career-high with eight assists. Webb had nine points and six rebounds before fouling out in the final minute, while Drmic had nine points and five rebounds despite an off night shooting (1-of-6). The Broncos were outscored by eight points in the 6:46 he didn’t play.
Boise State’s early gauntlet continues Sunday, but it’s another shot for the Broncos to get on the right side of a win against a sure NCAA Tournament team. It’s another chance to play a solid 40 minutes.
“We get another great team on a neutral court, and we’re seeing great team after great team. But we can’t lose sight of the forest from the trees, because it’s a resume builder, one that can help us down the road,” Rice said.