Broncos roll over Aggies 81-63 in WAC semifinals
AP Basketball Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) – La’Shard Anderson and Ryan Watkins scored 16 points each, and Boise State dominated the second half to rout New Mexico State 81-63 Friday night and reach the Western Athletic Conference championship game.
Second-seeded Boise State (20-11) used its defense to create scoring opportunities in the first half, then hit a slew of 3-pointers in succession in the second to run away from the defending tournament champions.
Playing with their highest seeding since joining the WAC in 2001-02, the Broncos ran their winning streak to eight games – longest since 1991-92 – and earned a trip to their third title game, against No. 23 Utah State on Saturday.
New Mexico State (16-17) stayed within reach despite a rash of turnovers in the first half, but had nothing left in the second half to keep up with the WAC’s highest-scoring team. Tyrone Watson led the Aggies with 15 points.
The Broncos overcame some shaky moments during the regular season, winning their final seven games to finish second behind Utah State. Boise State ended up with 19 wins under Leon Rice, a school record for a first-year coach, and earned a double bye into the semifinals of the conference tournament.
Their reward was a matchup with one of the WAC tournament’s most successful teams.
After an uneven regular season that mixed winning streaks with losing streaks, New Mexico was the third seed in the WAC tournament, earning a first-round bye.
The Aggies have always played well in the WAC tournament, winning 10 of 13 games since joining the conference in 2005-06, including two titles. The Aggies opened this year’s tournament by outlasting Nevada 66-60 in the quarterfinals behind Troy Gillenwater’s 18 points and solid free-throw shooting.
New Mexico State beat Boise State the last time these teams met, outlasting the Broncos in overtime after Gillenwater scored a career-high 34 points. Boise State won the first meeting, rallying for a three-point win on New Year’s Eve.
The Aggies seemed a little leg-weary early on in Round 3 after playing the night before, missing their first seven shots to quickly fall behind by nine. New Mexico State rallied when the game got sloppy, though, clawing back to within a point.
Boise State made a small run late to lead 34-26 at halftime, but the Aggies had to feel good to be that close after shooting so poorly early and turning it over 11 times, leading to 17 points for Boise State.
The Broncos made sure any good feelings didn’t last long, opening the second half on a 13-4 run, capped by Robert Arnold’s 3-pointer in transition that made it 47-30. Arnold followed with two more 3s, Jeff Elorriaga added his fourth and the Broncos ran away with it from there, setting up a chance to win their second WAC tournament title.
Elorriaga scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers and the Broncos were 9 of 15 from beyond the arc.