SAN DIEGO – Seldom-used centers Mo Sylla and Lukas Milner settling for tough baseline jumpers was the perfect way to sum up how things went for Boise State on Friday night at Viejas Arena.
Multiple air balls from Max Rice would have done the trick, too.
Without starting point guard Marcus Shaver Jr. due to an injury and with Tyson Degengart on the bench for much of the half due to foul trouble, the San Diego State Aztecs jumped on the undermanned Broncos from the start and never looked up.
Boise State trailed by 22 points at the half and never threatened in a 72-52 loss in front of a sellout crowd of 12,414.
“We were really depleted out there and it kind of felt that way,” Max Rice said. “We were taking terrible shots in the first half, but we’ll come back and fix it.
“I think playing in Viejas is tough. I think they probably win nine out of 10 times if not more. A depleted team like us coming in – it was going to be a tough one for sure. We didn’t come in expecting to lose but we knew it was going to be tough.”
Shaver Jr. sat helplessly on the bench with a boot on his right foot while the Broncos struggled throughout the night to even get the ball across half court. The Broncos turned it over multiple times and got called for a 10-second violation in the first half.
The Broncos actually led 6-2 in the early going but the Aztecs ripped off a 27-4 run to take control at 29-10 with 5:49 to go in the half. Boise State was 0-7 from 3-point range in the first half and shot just 33 percent overall, while the Aztecs scored at a 52 percent clip and had six quick points in the final minute to end the half with a a 43-21 lead.
It didn’t get any better in the second half. The difference between freshman Jace Whiting and the veteran Shaver was obvious from the tip.
“You take your quarterback out and it matters a lot,” Rice said. “It was unfortunate but that’s the way it is. It’s a big swing because not because Jace is not a good player, I’m not putting this on him, but’s it’s experience. You’re subbing a fifth-year guy out who has been in this situation (for a freshman).
“We didn’t handle (the pressure) and so it just got turned up and turned up and turned up and that made it tough. We had nothing going in the first half.”
Max Rice had 16 points and Degenhart and Chibuzo Agbo each had nine for the Broncos, who went 2 of 18 from 3-point range and got out-rebounded 36-28.
Boise State’s defense, which ranked No. 9 entering the game at KenPom, allowed San Diego State to shoot 51 percent from the field (26 of 51).
“Our offense was so bad in the first half that it puts too much pressure on our defense,” Leon Rice said. “It was blood in the water and here come the sharks and then it’s just going to keep getting more and more and more (tougher).”
San Diego State appeared motivated from the start after losing three close games to Boise State last season, including a one-point loss to the Broncos in the Mountain West Championship game.
The Aztecs scored 37 points for the game in a 42-37 loss to the Broncos here at Viejas Arena last season. San Diego State had surpassed that before halftime on Friday.
“It was a tough one,” Max Rice said. “They were ready for us today. They got us three times last year and I think they were ready for us and you saw that all night, tonight. They pressured us really well, we turned the ball over, we didn’t shoot the ball well. It was kind of their night tonight.”
The 20-point loss was Boise State’s worst in a Mountain West game since a 22-point loss at Colorado State (78-56) on Jan. 27, 2021.
Boise State looked out of sync and lost from the start. But it happens. It’s one game – and not all is lost. The Broncos fall into a second-place tie in the Mountain West standings, but still have the Aztecs and New Mexico coming back to ExtraMile Arena later this month.
“We’re in a great position,” Leon Rice said. “That was the top two records in the league. Yeah absolutely. The season is not over.
“It’s something we haven’t dealt with for two years. We didn’t lose a game by double digits last year until the final game, so all our games are close, so yeah, it’s a hard pill for us to swallow but our bye is coming at a terrific time because we have to get healthy.”
Boise State gets eight days to regroup before hosting Wyoming on Feb. 11.