It wasn’t about the pressure of being in first place in the Mountain West Conference.
It had nothing to do with the Boise State men’s basketball team’s poor track record in Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
It had everything to do with turnovers.
The Broncos committed 16 turnovers and went scoreless over a 4-minute stretch late in the second half to fall 71-65 Saturday night at Utah State.
“This is a tough pill to swallow, honestly, but one thing we’ve talked about all year is that if we turn the ball over so many times, there’s no way that we’re going to win most of those games,” Boise State senior Lexus Williams said. “I think a few games we’ve turned it over 15, 18 and still won, but we can’t get comfortable like that.”
Boise State (20-5 overall, 10-3 MW), which didn’t trail in the first half, took its last lead of the game, 52-51, on a 3-pointer from Williams with 7:58 left and did not score again until the 3:37 mark.
The Aggies (14-12, 7-6), meanwhile, made three triples over the last 5 minutes and broke the Broncos’ full-court press for a pair of dunks in the final minute to earn the upset.
“Our defense didn’t get it done down the stretch, really, when you look at it,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “... We let them make too many threes, and we turned it over way too many times.”
Instead of holding a half-game lead in the conference standings going into Wednesday’s home game against Nevada (21-5, 10-2), the Broncos are now chasing the defending regular-season and tournament champion by a half-game.
“The ones that hurt, you let them hurt, and that way you have motivation coming into those next games,” Williams said. “That’s the beauty of basketball. We’ve got quick turnarounds. It’s not like football where you’ve got to wait a whole week or so. We have to get our minds right, come together even closer, regroup and refocus and be ready for Wednesday.”
Utah State sophomore guard Kobe McEwen finished with a team-leading 23 points and made one of his five 3-pointers with 1:08 left in the game to give the Aggies some cushion.
Senior Chandler Hutchison scored the Broncos’ final 11 points and finished with 28 points and six rebounds, but he also had four turnovers and zero assists.
“From a competitor’s standpoint, this makes you hungrier,” Hutchison said. “I wouldn’t say that it makes it tougher. One thing we don’t want is to have a game where we barely get by and then get rocked the next one because we’re not prepared. I think this is going to wake us up. We’ve got a bunch of competitors and guys that are hungry for what’s still right in front of us.”
Williams and fellow senior Chris Sengfelder each finished with 12 points, but the Broncos’ sophomore trio of Justinian Jessup, Alex Hobbs and Marcus Dickinson combined for just six points and eight turnovers.
“That’s when we’re really good, when they’re clicking,” Rice said. “Because Chandler can’t score 40.”
Rice did not want to discuss how Saturday’s loss might affect the Broncos’ chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s a month left of basketball. Talk to me in a month about that,” he said. “That’s when it will really matter.”
Women: Boise State 68, Utah State 60
Junior guard Marta Hermida scored the final seven points of the game to lift the Broncos to a victory over Utah State on Saturday afternoon at Taco Bell Arena.
Boise State led just 61-60 with 1:40 to play before Hermida went to work, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:11 on the clock and then going 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to close out the win.
Hermida, a Madrid, Spain, native, finished with 21 points, and fellow guard Riley Lupfer scored a game-high 24 points, including a 5-for-11 performance from 3-point range to bring her single-season record to 90.
With UNLV’s loss to Wyoming, the Broncos (15-9, 9-4 MW) are just a half-game out of first place in the Mountain West.
UTAH ST. 71, BOISE ST. 65
BOISE ST. (20-5)
Haney 1-2 1-2 3, Sengfelder 4-9 2-2 12, Jessup 0-3 0-0 0, Hutchison 11-17 5-7 28, Williams 5-9 0-0 12, Wacker 2-4 0-0 4, Hobbs 2-7 0-0 4, Dickinson 0-2 2-2 2, Harwell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 10-13 65.
UTAH ST. (14-12)
Brown 4-8 1-2 10, Taylor 3-6 2-2 8, Merrill 5-13 0-0 12, McEwen 9-14 0-1 23, Brito 5-8 5-6 16, Dargenton 0-0 0-0 0, Henson 0-4 0-0 0, Pearre 1-2 0-0 2, Isby 0-1 0-0 0, Porter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-56 8-11 71.
Halftime—Boise St. 34-27. 3-Point Goals—Boise St. 5-16 (Williams 2-3, Sengfelder 2-4, Hutchison 1-4, Dickinson 0-1, Hobbs 0-2, Jessup 0-2), Utah St. 9-25 (McEwen 5-9, Merrill 2-7, Brown 1-2, Brito 1-3, Pearre 0-1, Isby 0-1, Henson 0-2). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boise St. 31 (Sengfelder 9), Utah St. 23 (Brown 6). Assists—Boise St. 8 (Hobbs 6), Utah St. 17 (McEwen 5). Total Fouls—Boise St. 14, Utah St. 13.