Boise wins wild WAC title game
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. » It took Boise State three tries, but the Broncos finally put New Mexico State away in triple overtime to win a wild Western Athletic Conference tournament final 107-102 last night at the Pan American Center.
WAC MEN'S CHAMPIONS
||New Mexico State
Tournament MVP Reggie Larry led the Broncos with a game-high 31 points as Boise State captured its first WAC championship and its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1994.
Center Matt Nelson added 26 as the BSU starting five accounted for all but six points for the Broncos in the highest-scoring game in WAC tournament history and the first triple-overtime WAC final.
NMSU rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 7 minutes of regulation to force overtime, but Boise State scored the first five points in the third extra period to avenge two regular-season losses.
The Fresno State women advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history with a 72-56 win over New Mexico State.
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LAS CRUCES, N.M. » With an epic Western Athletic Conference tournament final headed to a third overtime, a fan with a dry-erase board may have summed it up best.
"I can't take it anymore," he scribbled.
After close to 3 hours of high-anxiety basketball, it was Boise State that mustered whatever energy it had left to celebrate on the Pan American Center court after capturing its first WAC title with a 107-102 triple-overtime win over host New Mexico State last night.
Tournament MVP Reggie Larry scored 31 points to lead five starters in double figures and grabbed 16 rebounds to help send the Broncos (25-8) to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.
Center Matt Nelson added 26 points and the Broncos shot 58 percent in the overtime periods to finally put the Aggies away on NMSU's home court.
"It's a championship game and tired or not you have to go hard," Larry said after logging 48 minutes on the court in the first triple-overtime game in a WAC tournament final.
"Before the Hawaii game (in the quarterfinals) I said I was going to do whatever I can, because it wasn't promised that we were going to go on to another tournament. I just told everyone I was going to do as much as I can and make sure it wouldn't be my last game."
NMSU (21-14) battled back from a 13-point deficit in the final 7 minutes of regulation to force overtime. The Aggies survived the first overtime when Hatila Passos converted a three-point play with 3.3 seconds left and NMSU forced yet another 5 minutes when Justin Hawkins got a jumper to drop with 16.7 seconds left.
But Boise State scored the first five points of the third extra period and took control in the final minute when point guard Anthony Thomas got a driving scoop to fall while being fouled. His free throw gave the Broncos a five-point lead with 42.6 seconds left and BSU held on from there.
The shot was redemptive for Thomas, who committed the foul that allowed Passos to tie the game with his knee-knocker free throw in the first overtime. He finished with 13 points, forward Tyler Tiedeman hit five 3-pointers on his way to a 17-point night and guard Matt Bauscher finished with 14 points and nine boards.
The Broncos won despite letting leads slip away late and seeing Nelson foul out early in the second overtime, getting clutch shots from all of the starters throughout.
"That's been our key all year," BSU coach Greg Graham said of the Broncos' balance. "We've been one of the top two or three shooting teams in the country, one of the top 3-point shooting teams and we had these two big guys put us on their back and carry us."
Boise State -- picked fifth in the WAC preseason polls -- proved its mettle by securing both a share of the regular-season title and tournament championship on the road with wins at Hawaii on March 1 and last night before a raucous crowd at the Pan American Center.
The home court didn't prove all that advantageous for both New Mexico State teams yesterday. The Fresno State women's team beat NMSU, 72-56, to earn its first NCAA women's tournament berth yesterday afternoon, and the NMSU men came up short in their bid to defend the title they won on the same floor last year.
Freshman Herb Pope led NMSU with 20 points. Hawkins, MVP of last year's tournament, finished with 18 and Passos had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
"We fought to the last tick, but they hit some big shots and we couldn't answer," said NMSU coach Marvin Menzies, whose team will await its postseason fate today. "Defensive stops are a big part of the equation and we couldn't get the ones we needed in the third overtime."
Joining Larry on the all-tournament team were Nelson, Bauscher, Hawkins and Utah State guard Jaycee Carroll.