LAS VEGAS — Antwan Scott made sure Colorado State left no doubt this time.
In a rematch of one of the most controversial games — and endings — of this college basketball season, the sixth-seeded Rams made sure their wasn’t any question who was the better team Thursday night in a thrilling 88-81 win over No. 3 seed Boise State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament.
Scott, who set the CSU single-season record for 3-pointers in the game, led the Rams with a team-high 23 points, while John Gillon added 20 and Joe De Ciman pitched 18 points of his own.
“Neither team stepped back one step,” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said. “It was just a great college basketball game. 15-round boxing match. 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.”
The Rams (18-15), who split the season series with the Broncos, gave Boise State everything it could handle in the first half and more, responding to each Boise State 3-pointer with a three of their own, connecting on 7 of 15 attempts from behind the arc in the first half.
CSU was able to extend its lead to as many as six, 20-14, in the with 12:16 to go in the half, but Boise State quickly responded by tying the game at 22 two minutes later. Neither team led by more than five the rest of the half, with a free throw from John Gillon tying it at 45 with a free throw with five seconds to go.
Both teams however, were plagued by foul trouble for much of the game, with five players finishing with four fouls and six more finishing with three. Neither had a player disqualified though, despite a combined 46 fouls between the teams, including a technical on Eustachy midway through the first half, his first of the season.
The final 20 minutes saw more of the same, with the teams trading blows back and forth, neither team able to pull away.
While CSU continued to torch the Broncos from behind the arc, hitting six more 3-pointers in the second half, Boise State went ice cold from behind the arc, hitting just 1 of its final 10 3-pointers despite having two of the better marksmen in the league in Nick Duncan and Anthony Drmic. After scoring 10 points in the first half, Drmic, who was a preseason All-Mountain West selection, scored just one basket in the final frame and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
At the end of the day, it’s us getting stops,” De Ciman said of the Rams’ second-half defense. “We ended up stopping them. Their middle penetration and then offensively Jeremiah Paige had a back breaker of that offensive rebound. We got back on ‘D’ and stopped them and rebounded the ball.”
(Photos by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos)
Though CSU led more than 11 minutes in the second half, it wasn’t until the final five minutes that the Rams could pull away, finishing the game on a 14-4 run to mark the first real upset of the tournament. After 17 ties and 17 more lead changes, it was key free throws from Tiel Daniels, who posted a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, and a clutch late-game performance from Scott, scoring 10 of the Rams’ final 14 points to push them into the semifinals for the second year in a row.
Now, the Rams move on to face No. 2 seed Fresno State Friday night in the semifinals at 9:30 p.m. MT on CBS Sports. The Bulldogs, who handled host UNLV 95-82 in a game earlier Thursday, beat CSU 87-73 in their only meeting this season on March 2.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.