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‘Wheels have come off’ for Boise State in MWC shocker

San Diego State may not have gotten off to the best start in the season, but with conference underway, a new team has been awaken.

Derrick Tuskan/SDSU Athletics

San Diego, CA -- Looking for their fifth win in six games, San Diego State stepped onto Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena full of determination. Their relentless effort earned them the “W” in their third conference game of the season.

The Aztecs have either won by a lot or lost by a lot this season. Today’s close, competitive game against Boise State was uncharted territory. The 84-77 final score was their second-closest win margin of the season.

“It was a great experience for us with how to manage the fourth quarter and make free throws down the end to win,” said San Diego State’s head coach Stacie Terry.

Things looked good for San Diego State before the clock even started. The Broncos received a technical foul before the game for not getting their starters in on time, an unusual bookkeeping violation. The red and black were up 1-0 when the clock started, but their lead didn’t last long.

The Aztecs struggled defensively in the first quarter trying to guard Boise State’s 6’3” center Marijke Vanderschaaf, who proved difficult to defend with a staggering height advantage.

The lack of San Diego State rebounds stunted them. The Broncos stacked the rebounds by continuing to hit the glass early and continued to attack the boards throughout the game. By the conclusion of the game, Boise State had only out rebounded the Aztecs by two, but pulled down 18 offensive boards compared to San Diego State’s nine.

Riley Lupfer came off the Broncos’ bench at full throttle in the middle of the first quarter. She made an immediate impact with a steal and seven points in four minutes as she helped her team get a slight edge at the end of the first.

San Diego State’s Lexy Thorderson had five three-pointers in the first half, making her the only Aztec with a three so far in the game. Her hot shooting put the Aztecs in front 36-34 at the half.

“Our offense just kind of came [together] when we were looking for each other,” Thorderson said after the game.

As San Diego State and Boise State returned to the quarter out of intermission, the Broncos had one clear goal: cool down Thorderson. That is exactly what they did as their defense increased on her locking her down to scoring only two points in the third quarter.

Having a similar MO, the Aztec’s plan of attack was to stop Vanderschaaf – they did not have much luck, though. Vandershaaf earned a new career-high 21 points in the third period. San Diego State didn’t have anyone who could prevent her from getting in the perfect position under the rim. She took full advantage of it for the entire 40-minutes of the game.

While both teams had pinpointed a player from the opposing team to shut down, the Aztecs ran into another problem: one of their most reliable players was in foul trouble. McKeynzie Fort had contributed 12 points to San Diego State’s overall score, but with two minutes remaining in the third, she had four fouls which forced her to spend time on the bench at a pivotal time in the game.

The Broncos ran with momentum on their side as they launched a pair of threes to extend their lead. Boise State went from down two at intermission to up seven, 61-54, heading into the closing period.

Entering the fourth period, the Aztecs knew they still had time on their side to retaliate against Boise State – which is exactly what they did.

San Diego State responded with their own air raid of treys, as Kym Ellison led the way with three and Thorderson got free from the Broncos’ suffocating defense and knocked down another one. Multiple threes in a row midway through the fourth quarter gave the Aztecs a 77-74 lead.

From there the game would go back and forth as San Diego State relied on their three-point shooting for the remainder of the contest, while Boise State depended on their aggressive rebounding to help them finish the game.

With 26.5 seconds left, the Aztecs led 79-75. Fort went to the free throw line and increased their lead to 80.

“[Boise State] got down, came back, they made a run, we made a run, they hit some big shots, we hit some big shots,” Terry said.

They pulled away with free throws as the clock ticked down to the final seconds.

The tight, competitive game made it one of the best games the Mountain West has seen so far this season, leaving fans hungry for more as teams get deep into conference play.

“We’re shooting the ball really well right now,” Terry said after the game. “That’s not always going to be the case. When we go on the road like we’re about to for these next two games, we have to do a better job defensively.”

Boise State came to San Diego 12-2 coming off an upset loss to UNLV and a Dec. loss to No. 11 Washington.

“The wheels have come off,” Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell said after the loss. “The most important thing is to overcome insecurity.”

Fortunately, the Broncos are heading into a bye week and will have time to regroup before continuing Mountain West play at Fresno State.