While most Boise State students were away on winter break, the women’s basketball team continued grinding through their season and dove back into conference play. Boise State went into winter break 9-4 and on a five-game winning streak and emerged 12-6.
During the brief hiatus from classes, the Broncos played five hard-fought games, three of which were decided by five points or less. Boise State saw a range of ups and downs over the last three weeks, making for a noteworthy stretch of the season as they look to defend their Mountain West title.
Dec. 22 vs Pepperdine: W, 76-74
Thanks to senior guard Riley Lupfer’s final-minute 3-pointer, the Broncos were able to pull ahead of Pepperdine for their last non-conference victory of the regular season. Lupfer hit the go-ahead shot with 41 seconds remaining, and guard Jayde Christopher went 1-2 on the line to extend the lead to two, ultimately securing the victory.
Boise State trailed Pepperdine until the last five minutes of the second quarter when they pulled ahead 29-27. Pepperdine got within two points at the third quarter buzzer, sending them into a 56-54 fight for the final quarter.
Each team scored 20 points in the fourth quarter battle. Five ties and four lead changes later, and with the hand of Lupfer, the Broncos downed the Waves 76-74.
Jan. 1 at Wyoming: L, 68-73
The Broncos led by as much as 15 points in the second quarter on New Year’s Day, but Wyoming brought the score to 38-37 at halftime. The Broncos pulled ahead to lead 56-50 by the end of the third, but then faced a cold fourth quarter.
Boise State scored just 12 points on 4-16 shooting in the fourth quarter, while the Cowboys put up 23 boards.
“We’ve had sustained effort issues all year long. When you give up a 30-point quarter
to a team that just scored 44 here against Northern Colorado, that is not good,” said head coach Gordy Presnell. “We did that, and showed a lot of vulnerability. [Wyoming] took advantage of that, credit to them. They were prepared, they were fired up. They’ve lost two championships to us in the last two years.”
Jan. 4 vs Nevada: W, 54-40
The Broncos’ defense returned to Boise ready to win after a disappointing night in Laramie. No Nevada players ended the night in double-digits as they were held to a season-low 26.9% shooting.
While the Broncos’ 54 points were the lowest they have scored this season, the same can be said for Nevada’s 40 points. The Wolf Pack was averaging 68.7 points per game before facing the Broncos.
While their defense was formidable, Boise State faced some offensive struggles of their own. The Broncos shot just 37.9%, their lowest average of the season. Only Braydey Hodgins (17) and McGwire (14) scored in double-digits.
Before the half, Boise State was trailing 23-17. But a 37-17 second half, in which the Wolf Pack hit just two of their last 17 attempts, put the Broncos back in the win column.
Jan. 8 at UNLV: L, 65-66
Despite a promising battle, Boise State’s seven-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter slowly slipped away to the Rebels. An 11-0 run from UNLV and seven missed attempts by the Broncos tied the game at 62-62 with 1:32 remaining. McGwire broke the scoring drought with a 3-pointer, but was immediately answered by back-to-back shots from UNLV’s Letecia Smith, putting Boise State down by one.
The Broncos looked once again to Lupfer, but unfortunately her buzzer-beating shot did not fall and the Broncos picked up their second conference loss.
“We didn’t perform or execute down the stretch of the game,” Presnell said. “That’s been the thing we have done well through the years and have not done that in our last two losses, especially in the fourth quarter…We had a lot of seniors who should be making plays and they didn’t do it. We’ve got to coach better, and we have to play better.”
Jan. 11 vs San Diego State: W, 86-72
After a tough night in Las Vegas, the Broncos returned home to prove their conference strength in front of 1,394 fans. After SDSU claimed the first quarter 17-14, the Broncos hit the floor running, picking up 29 points in the second.
The Broncos’ bench was on fire as Ellie Woerner, Rachel Bowers and Jade Loville scored 40 points. Loville drained a career-high 21 points, scoring 11 in the fourth quarter. Hodgins dished out 10 assists, matching her career high.
A fired-up fourth quarter sealed the deal for Boise State. The much-needed victory after a challenging week has the Broncos focused and optimistic about taking on their remaining conference opposition.
“Today was great, all the energy and the excitement and the talking. That’s what we need every day,” Woerner said. “I think seeing a productive win like that today helps us know that’s what we need to do every day.”
The Broncos (4-2) currently sit at fourth place in the conference and will face Air Force (2-3) at ExtraMile Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m.