Boise State and Colorado State found themselves in a battle worthy of their tight rivalry Thursday night in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The two teams came into the contest having their previous four games decided by six points or fewer. This slugfest was no different as the Rams’ 88-81 victory featured 17 ties and 17 lead changes.
“A 15-round boxing match,” Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy called it.
Tied 77-77 with 3:49 left to play, sixth-seeded Colorado State scored 10 of the next 11 points as third-seeded Boise State missed six straight field goals. The Broncos’ season likely comes to an end, though the NIT and Vegas 16 tournaments are outside possibilities.
Senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic saw his career possibly come to a bittersweet finish as he scored 12 points, finishing with 1,942, two shy of tying the school record held by Tanoka Beard for the last 23 years.
“A hundred percent, yes,” junior forward Nick Duncan said on hoping to play in a postseason tournament. “We’ll find a way to get a game, hopefully, and we’ll go out and get him one more game.”
Boise State’s players were united in wanting to get one more game for Drmic, who missed two 3-pointers in the final 33 seconds that would have given him the record.
“As far as I’m concerned, we still have got to finish the season the right way,” junior forward James Webb III said.
“I want Drmic to break the record,” freshman guard Paris Austin said.
Boise State coach Leon Rice wanted to let the loss wash over before looking at what’s next. Two years ago, the Broncos found themselves in a similar situation and opted to not play in a tournament. Rice said that was different, as this team doesn’t quite have the same rash of injuries.
“No question the circumstances are probably a lot different,” Rice said. “We’ve just got to dust ourselves off (Friday) and start to figure it out.”
Duncan led Boise State with 23 points on Thursday, while Webb III added 15 and Austin pitched in 10.
Thursday’s game was representative of many of the issues that faced the Broncos in their dozen losses. They faded late, living and dying by the 3-pointer, making just 1-of-10 in the second half while the Rams made 6-of-12. Colorado State’s 13 in the game were the most against Boise State since Jan. 4, 2014. The Rams outrebounded the Broncos 34-28. The Broncos are 5-11 this season when being outrebounded.
“I mean, it’s hard to beat a team when you don’t play defense,” Webb said.
Webb’s importance was put into focus quickly in the first half.
Boise State’s top scorer and rebounder went to the bench with two fouls he accumulated in the first 2:57, but returned with 11:48 left in the half and played 3 more minutes. The Broncos were tied 45-45 with Colorado State at the half. When Webb was in the game, Boise State outscored Colorado State by eight in those 6 minutes, including a 12-2 run when he returned to the game after his second foul.
“It’s tough when he’s in perpetual foul trouble, when your most productive player is getting 20 minutes,” Rice said. “To beat them, he had to be out there 30 minutes.”
Colorado State was led by guard Antwan Scott’s 23 points and seven assists, while guard John Gillon added 20 points. The Rams will face second-seeded Fresno State on Friday.
After going 2-7 in games decided by eight points or fewer in the last 15 games, the Broncos will no doubt wonder what could have been, and also inspires the future stalwarts.
“We’ve got to play tougher,” Austin said. “We’ve got to change our culture, we’ve got to have more grit, be tougher to get these games done.”
POSTSEASON PICTURE: NIT, VEGAS OR NOTHING
If the Boise State men’s basketball team does not make the NIT field Sunday, it won’t be heading to the College Basketball Invitational or the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, either.
Athletic Director Curt Apsey said Thursday in Las Vegas those aren’t postseason options. That also means the women’s season is over.
“We didn’t really go back and forth. (The two coaches) kind of said, ‘We’d rather not this time around,’ ” Apsey said. “Absolutely, there was a (financial) factor, too. If they both said yes, we would’ve had to figure out some ways to make it work.”
The CBI and CIT are pay-to-play for a home game, or the costs of traveling to a road game. Two years ago, the men opted not to play in a postseason tournament after being passed over by the NIT.
If the Broncos don’t make the NIT, there is a possibility they could be in the inaugural Vegas 16 on March 26-30. “I’ve had a few conversations with them, but you still don’t know quite what it will be like, so there’s a little unknown,” Apsey said.