There are only two more games guaranteed for the 2017-18 Boise State men’s basketball team.
Another performance like Tuesday night’s could be problematic as the team tries to secure the best possible postseason berth.
The Broncos committed 17 turnovers and struggled with foul trouble in a 72-64 Mountain West Conference loss to San Diego State at Viejas Arena.
“I don’t fault them for their effort or their desire,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “But we can’t go win the (Mountain West) tournament, we can’t win the Wyoming game, without everybody pulling the rope and playing well.”
Boise State (22-7, 12-5) hosts Wyoming in its regular season finale at 5 p.m. Saturday in Taco Bell Arena. The Broncos already have wrapped up the No. 2 seed in next week’s conference tournament, but the loss to San Diego State (18-10, 10-7) is another hit to the Broncos’ dwindling hopes of an at-large bid – should they need it – to the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s a high-level team we just played. It’s not a game that kills you or ruins your season,” Rice said. “We’ve got to bounce back, lick our wounds, pick ourselves up off the dirt and go keep fighting, because you never know how close you are to doing some great things, and I always feel that about this team.”
After scorching the Aztecs for a school-record 44 points in an 83-80 victory on Jan. 13, Boise State senior Chandler Hutchison rarely had a clear look at the basket Tuesday night. Hutchison finished with a game-leading 18 points and nine rebounds but was just 4-for-14 from the field.
“Every time he got the ball, there were five sets of eyes on him, and that makes it tough,” Rice said. “... That opened some things up for us in the first half to make some 3s. We just didn’t make them in the second half.”
Boise State made six of its first 10 3-point attempts as Hutchison collected four of his game-best five assists before halftime. The Broncos led 25-17 with 7:45 remaining in the first half before foul trouble caught up with them and their 3-point shooting went cold.
Four of Boise State’s five starters had two fouls apiece before the break, and San Diego State took advantage by outscoring the Broncos 14-2 over the final five minutes for a 38-37 halftime lead.
Starters Chris Sengfelder — who logged just 17 total minutes — Lexus Williams and Justinian Jessup finished with four fouls apiece, and Boise State tied a season-high with 26 fouls. Sengfelder went to the bench with two fouls five minutes into the first half and committed his third foul less than three minutes into the second half.
“They put a lot of foul pressure on you, and when you’re maybe a step slower than some of them, it’s hard to keep them in front,” Rice said. “We did a good job guarding the 3-point line, but they put foul pressure on us.”
Jessup was the only other Bronco to notch double figures in scoring with 11 points, including three 3-pointers. His 82 triples are the most by a sophomore in Boise State history and the fifth most in a single season. Junior forward Zach Haney added eight points and 11 rebounds, and Williams and Marcus Dickinson had nine points each.
The Aztecs held the Broncos to their lowest field-goal percentage (39.6 percent) and point total (64) in Mountain West action this season, choosing this time around to clamp down on Hutchison while testing their luck against the rest of the Broncos.
“We forced the middle and packed the paint on (Hutchison), and it was tough for him to get a shot off,” San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels told The Associated Press. “Trying to take charges, meeting them at the rim, nothing was easy. The last time we were late on help and not building a wall on transition so he could get easy buckets.”
San Diego State had four players reach double figures led by McDaniels’ double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Aztecs shot just 1-for-16 from deep but converted on 23 of 29 attempts from the free-throw line.
“We have one more game left, and we want to win that to send the seniors out the right way,” Haney said. “Our goal the whole year is to win the Mountain West Tournament, so that’s what we’re going to try to do. We just have to get back to Boise, get back into the gym and get back to the drawing board and figure things out.”
SAN DIEGO ST. 72, BOISE ST. 64
BOISE ST. (22-7): Sengfelder 2-4 1-2 5, Haney 3-5 2-3 8, Williams 3-6 0-0 9, Jessup 4-8 0-0 11, Hutchison 4-14 10-15 18, Jorch 0-0 0-0 0, Dickinson 3-7 1-1 9, Hobbs 0-3 2-2 2, Jardine 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 19-48 18-25 64.
SAN DIEGO ST. (18-10): Pope 5-13 2-2 12, McDaniels 6-8 3-5 15, Watson 3-8 6-7 13, Kell 2-4 4-4 8, Mitchell 4-9 3-4 11, Montana 0-2 0-0 0, Narain 2-4 4-4 8, Schakel 0-2 0-0 0, Hemsley 2-3 1-3 5. Totals 24-53 23-29 72.
Halftime—San Diego St. 38-37. 3-Point Goals—Boise St. 8-27 (Williams 3-5, Jessup 3-7, Dickinson 2-5, Sengfelder 0-1, Jardine 0-1, Haney 0-2, Hobbs 0-2, Hutchison 0-4), San Diego St. 1-16 (Watson 1-2, Kell 0-1, Hemsley 0-1, McDaniels 0-1, Montana 0-2, Schakel 0-2, Pope 0-3, Mitchell 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Boise St. 32 (Haney 11), San Diego St. 28 (McDaniels 10). Assists—Boise St. 11 (Hutchison 5), San Diego St. 15 (Watson, Kell 4). Total Fouls—Boise St. 26, San Diego St. 20. A—11,211 (12,414).