Sometimes a team lives by the 3 and sometimes it dies by the 3.
The No. 16 seed Boise State Broncos fell into the latter category Friday in the first round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament.
Boise State connected on just 4-of-30 from behind the arc, and 14-of-59 shots overall, as it fell to top-seeded Louisville, 74-42 in the Lexington Regional at the KFC Yum Center.
“There’s a big difference in size,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said of his team’s plan to attack the Cardinals’ height. “We knew if we got Riley (Lupfer) in a pick-and-roll, they were going to double her. So we thought the pick-and-pops were always going to be open, and that’s the shot they gave us. We probably took too many, but that’s the shot we had, that we thought we could score on. But we haven’t had a post presence since early December. That’s just the way it’s been. We’ve been a consistent 3-point shooting team throughout the year, but we haven’t played the No. 3-ranked team in the country, either.
“The rim shrunk on us and it got a little tight.”
The Broncos finished the season with a 23-10 record.
Shalen Shaw finished with 12 points and five rebounds to pace Boise State, while Marta Hermida had nine points and six rebounds.
“I think we kind of weren’t focused, focused in on what we needed to do,” Shaw said. “We let it slip away. If we would have been focused, it would have been there.”
The Broncos’ shooting woes plagued them all game. They were 4-of-14 in the first quarter, 3-of-17 in the second, 3-of-11 in the third and 4-of-17 in the fourth — making just 23.7 percent of their shots overall.
Things were especially bleak in the third quarter, when Louisville turned a 10-point lead into a 59-30 advantage going to the fourth.
“We went into halftime thinking they were getting into trouble,” Presnell said. “We knew that they would up the intensity, up their level of performance. Would we be able to stay up there with them? But must have been a minute and half in when I called a timeout. All of a sudden, the game’s getting away from us. That’s them. There’s a reason they’re a No. 1 seed, and they just did a great job.”
The lead continued to swell, with Louisville pushing it to 70-35 with 5:15 to play.
Despite the rough ending, the Broncos know they had a good season. They won the Mountain West and then, Hermida said, were caught off-guard at receiving a 16 seed for the NCAAs.
“I think it was a really, really good season,” Hermida said. “That is why we were really surprised when we were a 16 seed. But we played together. I am so proud of every single one of my teammates and my coaches. That’s all, I think. We tried our best in every single game that we played.”
The game was close in the opening minutes, with Boise State pulling within 9-8 on a layup by Ellie Worner. But Louisville closed the first period on a 12-2 run to take a 21-11 lead after the first 10 minutes.
The wheels fell off in the third quarter for Boise State, which was outscored 27-8 in the frame. The outcome was never in doubt after that.
“I was asked before the game a couple days ago, ‘Do you see any weaknesses or anything?’ And, yeah, I saw a few things, but not for us,” Presnell said with a hint of sarcasm. “I saw what maybe some of the other teams could do against them. But once again, I’m proud of our team and we’re going to get there. We’ve got a pretty good future ahead of us.”