#MWMadness: Colorado State Pulls Away from Boise State Late, Advances into Semifinals
By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com
LAS VEGAS - Seventeen ties and seventeen lead changes.
At some point, there needed to be a winner.
With the game tied at 77-all with 3:29 remaining, No. 6 seed Colorado State closed the game on a 11-4 run, highlighted by Antwan Scott's 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:40 left, and went on to defeat third-seeded Boise State, 88-81, in Thursday's late quarterfinal of the 2016 Mountain West Men's Basketball Championship.
And for the seventh time in tournament history, the Rams advance to the semifinals, where they will meet Fresno State at 8:30 p.m. on Friday. This will be Colorado State second straight appearance in the semis, and fourth in the last five years.
"It was just a great college basketball game, 15-round boxing match," Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy said. "Just what it's all about. Both teams were at their highest level. That's probably as good as Boise's played and that's as hard as we've competed all year long.
"I'm really proud of our guys. And I give Boise a lot of credit. But we made the plays at the end and deserved to win, I thought."
Colorado State had four players in double figures, led by Scott's 23 points. Tiel Daniels registered his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. John Gillon added 20 points and Joe De Ciman had 18.
Both teams shot well, as the Broncos connected on 28-of-60 (46 percent), including 21-of-36 (58 percent) inside the 3-point line, and Colorado State shot 48 percent (26-of-54), including 13 of 29 (44 percent) from long range.
"Coach also says inside out, if it's an open look don't turn it down, shoot it if we're open," said Scott, who set a program record by connecting on his 94th 3-pointer of the season. "He instills that confidence to shoot the ball if we're open, so that's what we've been doing."
On the other end, the Broncos had five players in double figures, led by Nick Duncan, who scored 23 and had six rebounds. James Webb added 15, Anthony Drmic had 12 and Lonnie Jackson and Mikey Thompson each had 10.
Boise State seemingly did everything it needed to do to defeat the Rams, as it beat them in bench points (15-12), points off turnovers (21-7), second-chance points (16-13) and points in the paint (38-18). The only thing the Broncos couldn't do was knock down their shots like they had been doing for most of the game.
"We both have teams that are really competitive and we both get after it pretty good, so tends to be pretty competitive games," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "And both teams were really making shots for a while. And they just kind of outshot us there and kind of dug in and got the stops they needed to get."
After sinking a couple of free throws to put Boise State up by one, Webb intensified the team's energy when he took off in transition and delivered a two-handed flush to give the Broncos a 55-52 lead with 14:44 left in the game. But the Rams answered with five quick points, capped by Scott's 3-pointer from the corner, as they moved ahead, 57-55, with a little less than 14 to go in the game.
After trading baskets over the next four minutes, the teams were tied at 65. From there the Rams went on a 7-2 run, but Boise State quickly flipped the script and answered with an 8-0 run to move ahead 75-72 with 5:43 left in the game.
"I think it was a game where we all stayed together," De Ciman said. "They had some early runs. We had some runs. But we're a complete team from the coaching staff down. We never flustered, I guess that's a word you can use. We beat a very good Boise State team."
The first half was just as intense, as the team's each took significant leads before finishing the half deadlocked.
Five minutes into the game, Colorado State's Daniels put the Rams up by two with an easy layup, and moments later Gillon's 3-pointer put them up by five, as it was the first two-possession lead of the game for either team. It was part of a 10-4 run that pushed the Rams in front of Boise State, 20-14.
The Broncos weren't about to be pushed around, though, as they answered with an 8-2 run of their own to tie the game at 22, then scored five unanswered points to take a 27-22 lead. Colorado State answered with an 8-3 run to tie the game at 30-all, with 5:25 left in the half.
The teams battled back and forth over the final five minutes, as neither team held a two-possession lead. They went into the break knotted, 45-45.
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @WillieGRamirez