The saying goes, “Good shooting covers a variety of ills.”
And it nearly did for Colorado State Saturday night in the Rams’ Mountain West opener at Boise State. After nearly erasing a 14-point halftime deficit, CSU’s furious comeback attempt fell just short as the Broncos held on for an 84-80 victory at Taco Bell Arena.
Buoyed by a game-high 28 points and nine rebounds from James Webb III, Boise State jumped out to a big first-half lead and narrowly held on to move to 1-0 in the Mountain West. Despite shooting 63 percent from the field in the second half, including 8 of 14 from behind the arc, CSU (8-6, 0-1 MW) couldn’t make enough late stops to steal what would have been a massive road victory.
Trailing by two, 80-78, with 12 seconds to go, the Rams allowed Broncos guard Mikey Thompson to grab his own missed layup and get a putback to stretch the lead to four. A late jumper by redshirt freshman Jeremiah Paige brought the Rams back within two, but Boise State senior guard Anthony Drmic made two free throws with three seconds to go to seal the win.
“I’m not surprised with how the first half went, ” CSU head coach Larry Eustachy said. “This is a very seasoned team we went against, and Thompson just took the game over at the end. They’ve got Webb, they’ve Duncan, they’ve got a senior transfer. We were on our heels, and it’s not because we’re soft, it’s all just new. You can’t create this situation.”
The Broncos, last season’s regular season champions and this season’s preseason favorites, showed exactly why they are considered the class of the league in the first half, holding the Rams to just 38 percent shooting in the first half while jumping out to a 42-28 halftime lead, led by 14 points from senior Anthony Drmic.
Boise State scored the first six points of the game and extended its lead to as many as 16 in the first frame after a 9-0 run put them up 29-13 with 8:25 to go in the half.
Out of the break, CSU, led by senior guard Antwan Scott, cut the Broncos’ lead to just six a minute and a half into the second frame. The Rams hung around for the better part of the second half, cutting the deficit to five, 59-54, on a 3-pointer by senior Fred Richardson III.
Richardson, who head coach Larry Eustachy said had “lost his desire to play” after the Northern Colorado game, scored 10 key points off the bench in his first game action since CSU’s Nov. 27 game against Portland.
The Rams simply couldn’t get over the hump though, as Boise State held them at an arm’s distance for the rest of the second half, never allowing CSU to tie the game or take the lead. On the night, CSU outrebounded the Broncos 37-29, but Boise State was able to turn 16 turnovers into 29 points on the other end.
Scott (24 points), Joe De Ciman (22) and Tiel Daniels (12) and Richardson led the Rams in scoring, but no other CSU player scored more than five points, with the Rams other five players shooting just 4-for-21 from the field.
Drmic, who joined Webb III on the preseason All-Mountain West first team, pitched in 21 points, while Thompson added 18 points, six rebounds and nine assists for the Broncos, who moved to 10-4 overall, with three of those losses coming to top-25 teams.
“We’re going to have to put those type of halves — like the second half — together if we’re going to win the games we need to win,” Eustachy said. “This is the best team in the league, like I’ve said all along. There is no moral victory, but we’ll learn from it and get better.”
CSU will return home for its Mountain West opener Wednesday at 8 p.m. against UNLV, who the Rams beat in a thriller last season at Moby Arena.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.