BOISE, Idaho (AP)Max Rice scored 26 points and reeled off 12 straight points in a 14-0 run to close out the game and Boise State beat No. 18 San Diego State 66-60 on Tuesday night.
The Broncos (23-7, 13-4 Mountain West Conference) avenged a 20-point loss to San Diego State on Feb. 3 and remained perfect at home in conference play. It was the Broncos’ first win over a ranked team this season.
And Boise State coach Leon Rice couldn’t have been prouder of his son’s sterling performance in the Broncos’ biggest win of the season thus far.
“You can never measure a guy’s heart and the intangibles that are so valuable to a team … and (Max) is willing to do anything to help this team win,” the coach said. “Whatever that is, he’ll find a way to do that.”
San Diego State (23-6, 14-3), which had already claimed a share of the conference crown with its buzzer-beating win over New Mexico on Saturday, failed to hold onto a late nine-point lead.
“We played pretty good for three quarters of the game, but with five minutes to go, Boise stepped their game up,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “Sometimes in basketball you don’t get what you deserve, but tonight we got what we deserved. We didn’t execute down the stretch. Part of that’s on us, but part of that’s on Boise State and its well-coached Leon Rice team that came away with a big win today.”
With the Aztecs staked to a comfortable 60-52 lead with 4:48 remaining, Max Rice took over.
Playing in what could be his final home game on senior night, Rice hit a free throw before sinking a trio of 3-pointers to give Boise State a 62-60 lead, its first since the 17:01 mark of the second half.
Then on the Aztecs’ next possession, Rice stole a pass at mid-court and drove in for a layup, sending the Boise State crowd into a frenzy.
“On the play before that, I gambled and tried to sneak around (Micah) Parrish for the steal, but (assistant coach Mike Burns) told me to stop gambling or they were going to take me out,” Rice said. “On the next possession, I gambled again and laid it in. … It worked out.”
Marcus Shaver Jr., who missed the first meeting between the two teams with a right ankle injury, hit two free throws to push the lead to six in the final minute.
San Diego State couldn’t hit a shot over its final two possessions and the Broncos ran out the clock, resulting in the Boise State fans storming the court.
Tyson Degenhart scored 14 for Boise State, while Naje Smith added 10.
Matt Bradley paced San Diego State with 16 points, and Parrish chipped in 11.
San Diego State can still win the regular-season conference title outright with a victory against Mountain West cellar dwellers Wyoming on Saturday.
FOUR TOURNEY TEAMS?
After the game, Dutcher was frank about how strong he believes the Mountain West conference is – and how that should translate into tourney invites in a couple of weeks.
“There should be three, four, five teams from this conference in the tournament,” Dutcher said. “Now what the committee does – Nevada, Utah State, Boise State, San Diego State are all really good teams and all in the top of the metrics and we should all be in the tournament. But what happens at selection Sunday, who knows. But this is a really good conference with a lot of really good teams.”
San Diego State: Hosts Wyoming on Saturday.
Boise State: Plays at Utah State on Saturday.
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