Streaking Boise State Suffocates Aggies 81-63

Boise State showed how much it had improved since the last time they faced New Mexico State, with an 81-63 victory over the Aggies last night in the WAC semi's.

Boise State put on a clinic last night in dismantling a talented and athletic New Mexico State team 81-63 in the semifinal of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament last night in Las Vegas.

Freshmen Ryan Watkins had eight points and Jeff Eloriaga six as Boise State jumped out of the gate to a 17-10 lead in a game in which the Broncos never trailed. Then La'Shard Anderson took over. Time after time, the senior guard penetrated the Aggie interior for shots or dishes to teammates for easy layups. Anderson's flashing speed and quick starts and stops were too much for the Aggies, as Anderson created scoring opportunities or space with which to work his magic. Anderson had a career-high nine assists on the evening.

Meanwhile, the Bronco defense was superb in bothering New Mexico State's top offensive weapon, Troy Gillenwater. The Aggie star had averaged 29 points a game in two previous meetings with Boise State. But Bronco coach Leon Rice worked out a brilliant game plan for dealing with him. Boise State mixed up their defenses, sometimes doubling up on him to deny the ball, sometimes doubling and triple-teaming him once he caught it, and generally harassing him all evening. Gillenwater finished with 12 points, but seemed frustrated and out of sync.

Paul Noonan hit a crucial three-pointer late in the half as Boise State built a 34-24 lead. New Mexico State was able to make a jumper at the buzzer that counted to cut the lead to eight at halftime.

Coach Leon Rice's team continued to push the basketball up the floor and make great half-court decisions. Anderson played a tremendous game as the field general, and his heady play created numerous opportunities for his teammates. Eloriaga hit another three-pointer to devastate the Aggies and give Boise State it's biggest lead at 42-30. Shortly after, Robert Arnold bombed three consecutive three-pointers and Boise State's lead surged to 53-34.

The two teams traded baskets the rest of the way as soaring rebounds by Arnold and Daequon Montreal kept the Aggies from getting second chances. The Broncos held NMSU to 43 percent shooting and just 31% (4-13) from three-point range. Led by Eloriaga, Arnold and Noonan, the Broncos dealt deadly blows with 9-15 shooting from behind the arc. Boise State collected its eighth win in a row, the most since Bobby Dye's Broncos won nine in a row 19 years ago.

Anderson and Watkins each had 16 points while Eloriaga had 12, Arnold and Montreal had 11 points each and Noonan added 11. Montreal had a game-high nine rebounds and Arnold had seven.

Boise State won its 20th game of the season against 11 defeats. The Broncos will see if they can finally topple four-time defending regular season champion Utah State tonight. The #21 Aggies have been the class of the league and penetrating their defense won't be as easy as it was with New Mexico State. Coach Stew Morrill is one of the top leaders in the land, and he will have his defense sag inside. Anderson won't be able to penetrate as easily as he did tonight. Utah State will say "We see you made the three-pointers tonight but let's just see if you can do it again."

If the Broncos can, they very well could be dancing. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. tomorrow night.

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