It all came down to the last six minutes for the Boise State women’s basketball team on Sunday, Nov. 10. Center Mallory McGwire had just scored for the third time in the quarter to tie it up. The scoreboard read 60-60 as the Broncos took the court after a Missouri State timeout, prepared to do anything they could to take down the Bears.
The minutes to follow contained nerve-wracking, back-and-forth play that involved nine fouls, five turnovers, 10 points from the Bears and nine from the Broncos.
The Broncos trailed by four with 12 seconds on the clock when Riley Lupfer, who had not scored at all in the second half, lunged for a 3-pointer and nailed it. Almost immediately, a foul in the back court sent Missouri State’s Mya Bhinhar to the line, who went 2-2.
Facing a three-point deficit in the final seconds, Lupfer fired again from the arc. ExtraMile Arena held its breath as the shot hit the left rim, spun to the glass and popped out at the buzzer. In a rare display of emotion, Lupfer slammed her hands on the floor, understandably frustrated.
The final score was a gut-wrenching one: Broncos 69, Missouri State 72.
“I don’t really let anger come out like that, but yeah I was pretty mad,” Lupfer said. “I hit the same shot right before that and I thought that last shot was going down. If you’re a shooter you know what rimming out feels like; it’s probably the worst feeling for a shooter.”
Missouri State (3-0), who reached the Sweet 16 last season, proved to be an even match for the Broncos by the books. The Bears shot 28-64; the Broncos went 27-60. The Bears hit six from deep; the Broncos hit eight. The Bears scored 11 points from turnovers; the Broncos scored 13. The Bears had four players score in double-digits; the Broncos had three.
“I know they are a good team, but this is a stepping stone for us,” McGwire said. “I know it’s kind of a setback but I think this just gives us more momentum with whoever our next high-seeded team is that we play.”
Lupfer hit the court on Sunday with obvious intensity, going 3-3 from deep within the first three minutes. She totalled 14 points in the first half, then fell silent in the remainder until her closing shots brought the Broncos within inches of a victory.
“[Lupfer] does not quit, I mean she grinds to the last second,” McGwire said. “If we’re down by 10 with two seconds left she will fight like we’re up one. I mean she’s just a great competitor and I think we fight till the end.”
While Missouri State outrebounded the Broncos 37-35, McGwire dominated everyone on the glass. McGwire recorded her first double-double as a Bronco by posting 19 points and 17 rebounds, both of which were game highs. In the fourth quarter alone, McGwire had nine points and pulled down seven rebounds.
The Broncos gained momentum in the second quarter with a 9-0 run to take a 29-23 lead, but Missouri State answered with a 15-2 run to close the half as Boise State went 1-for-7 with three turnovers. The third quarter produced 20 points for the Bears and 21 for the Broncos, leaving the Bears with a 58-52 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Broncos’ 69 points on 72 possessions proved their ability to hang with top Division I teams. At the half, Boise State had maintained their lead for 10:10 to the Bears’ 4:19. The biggest lead Missouri held throughout the game was by just seven points.
“I think there’s a lot we can learn from it,” said head coach Gordy Presnell. “Certainly not a moral victory; we thought we could win and that we could advance in this tournament. But overall I thought we played pretty hard.”
The Broncos (2-1) will travel to Birmingham to play in a consolation bracket to wrap up their participation in the tournament. Boise State faces University of Alabama-Birmingham on Friday, Nov. 15 at 3p.m. MT.