If history is any indicator, Saturday’s matchup between Boise State and Colorado State at Taco Bell Arena (4 p.m., ESPN3) will be a fun way to end 2016.
The Broncos and Rams played three times last season. Boise State won the first matchup and Colorado State won the last two, including an 88-81 victory in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament. The three games were decided by a total of 15 points.
And, of course, there was the controversy in Fort Collins.
With the game tied 84-84, James Webb III hit what appeared to be a game-winner in overtime that would have lifted the Broncos to victory. There was a clock malfunction, and after much deliberation by officials, the shot was ruled to have been late. The Broncos lost in double overtime, though the Mountain West later released a statement saying the shot should have counted.
Coming off of an 83-80 win over Utah State in Logan to open Mountain West play, Boise State head coach Leon Rice expects another adventure against Colorado State and head coach Larry Eustachy.
“I have a ton of respect for Larry. You can hang your hat on his team playing hard. You can hang your hat on him getting the most out of them, and that’s what great coaches do,” Rice said. “We have classic battles. Every single game we’ve had with Larry has been epic and amazing, and I expect nothing else but that on Saturday.”
Boise State (8-4), winner of four straight, had its own epic battle Wednesday. Junior Chandler Hutchison scored a team-high 21 points, while freshman Justinian Jessup hit five 3-pointers en route to 16 points.
“The key to league is how quickly you can recover and get ready to play another good team. You do battle like that for two hours … it was just like being in a fight for two hours,” Rice said. “You get done with it and you go, well, we probably have 17 more like this.”
The game was not without controversy. BSU senior Nick Duncan was seen sticking up his middle finger at the Utah State student section after the final buzzer. Duncan apologized for his actions and will not face disciplinary action from Boise State or the Mountain West.
“Emotions boiled and went over, and I went a little bit too far there at the end and didn’t set a good example for my team,” Duncan said. “I’d definitely take that back.”
The Rams (9-5) defeated UNLV 91-77 in their Mountain West opener Wednesday, and they feature one of the top defenses in the conference. CSU is second in field goal percentage defense (.386) and rebounds per game (40.1), and fourth in blocked shots per game (4.3).
“(They’re a) gritty, big-time rebounding team,” Hutchison said. “They’re going to try to outmuscle you down low. It’s going to be a battle for a whole 40 minutes.”
Senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo is the only MW player averaging a double-double (12.1 points, 10.7 rebounds).
“He is a stat stuffer. Maybe the best rebounder in the league, maybe plays harder than anybody in the league. He’s developed more skill now, and he’s making 3s,” Rice said. “He’s a versatile, versatile player.”
Utah State’s crowd Wednesday was a major factor. Hutchison would love to see his team get the same sort of advantage Saturday.
“It makes all the difference. The games are all decided by a couple points. When we can get that momentum and run away with it, we’re pretty good,” Hutchison said. “Guys play with high energy. Guys come off the bench and feed off that crowd, so it makes all the difference.”
Rice vouches for Duncan
Rice spoke with the media Thursday about Duncan’s gesture and its aftermath.
“We don’t ever want that to be who we are, and that’s not who we are,” Rice said. “But I will not let anybody vilify Nick Duncan. This kid has put in equity in this program. He’s been one of the best students we’ve ever had here, one of the best representatives, one of the best players, guy that cares about his teammates. Sure, he had a lapse of judgment and a slip. ... He just went over the line. We had a good talk about it, and he knows. He wants to do the right thing, always.
“We’ve had some great guys through here, and everybody would agree that Nick’s been one of the greatest we’ve ever had here.”
BSU (8-4) vs CSU (9-5)
▪ When: 4 p.m. today
▪ Where: Taco Bell Arena (12,480), Boise
▪ Radio: KBOI 670 AM (Bob Behler and Abe Jackson). Fans can also listen to the game at BroncoSports.com
▪ Broadcast: The game will be streamed live on WatchESPN.com and ESPN3.com.
▪ Series history: Colorado State leads 10-7.
▪ Tickets: To close out 2016, fans can purchase four tickets for $16 at the door or at BroncoSports.com/tickets using the code 2016.