Larry leads Boise State over NMSU in 3OT thriller, 107-102
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP)—One overtime, two overtimes, and finally three. Reggie Larry briefly considered that this game might never stop.
“I really thought we would be going to a fourth overtime,” he said.
Nope. It finally ended, just like Boise State’s 14-year NCAA tournament drought.
Larry had 31 points and 16 rebounds as the Broncos reached the NCAAs for the first time since 1994, outlasting New Mexico State 107-102 for the WAC tournament title in a triple-overtime thriller Saturday night.
Matt Nelson added 26 points, Tyler Tiedeman had 17, Matt Bauscher scored 14 and Anthony Thomas 13 as the Broncos (25-8) got contributions from every corner of the lineup.
“Guys stepped up for us,” Boise State coach Greg Graham said. “They all kept us moving along.”
The last time the Broncos reached the NCAA tournament, they won the Big Sky tourney but lost to Louisville in the first round.
Getting there this time was a real marathon, with the contest tied at 71 at the end of regulation, at 80 after the first overtime and at 92 after two OTs.
But Boise State finally built up enough cushion, with Larry scoring twice in a 6-0 burst to start the final overtime.
Thomas provided the insurance, slashing for a layup and foul that he turned into a three-point play and 102-97 lead with 42.6 seconds to go.
“That was the one that hurt us,” Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said. “It gave them a window of opportunity to protect the clock.”
Seconds later, Thomas forced NMSU’s Jonathan Gibson into a backcourt violation, and it was fiesta time back in Idaho.
Freshman Herb Pope led the Aggies (21-14) with 20 points, playing through foul trouble since picking up his third late in the first half.
Justin Hawkins had 18 and Fred Peete scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half as New Mexico State erased a 16-point deficit.
The Broncos survived in a hostile environment driven by passionate NMSU fans, then cut down the nets in a largely vacant arena. Graham noted it was fitting that his team won a school-record 11 road games, then capped it this way.
“All the odds were stacked against us,” Nelson said. “It’s a tough environment, a tough team. But we pulled it off because we’re family. We’re tight.”
At the final horn, Bauscher threw the ball into the rafters and several of his teammates jumped atop a courtside table to cheer with a contingent of fans in orange and blue.
“Here it is. Here it is,” Larry said, proudly holding the WAC trophy high in the air. “Going back to Boise.”
Larry added 16 rebounds and was named tournament MVP, capping a three-day run where he scored 26 points in a win over Hawaii and 23 as the fourth-seeded Broncos beat No. 1 Utah State.
“I just had a great tournament,” he said, smiling. “Before the Hawaii game, I told everyone I wanted to do as much as I could to help us. There were no guarantees we’d go to the NCAA tournament.”
Peete was fabulous as the Aggies stormed from behind. They outscored the Broncos 35-19 after Bauscher’s 3-pointer put Boise State into a seemingly safe 52-36 lead with 13:47 remaining.
New Mexico State chipped away, though, getting big baskets from Pope, Hawkins, Peete and especially Gibson, who put New Mexico State ahead 71-70 with a huge 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play in regulation.
It was pandemonium at the Pan American Center.
“I never thought we were going to lose,” Hawkins said. “We never doubted it. Every time we tied it up and it was going into the next overtime, we thought, ‘All right. Here we go.”’
Shortly after an airball on a free throw, Larry tied it at 71, making one of two free throws to tie it with 16.8 seconds to play. Larry said he caught the ball with a thumb on the way up but agreed the noisy crowd contributed.
“You’re hearing all kinds of things out there,” he said. “Your legs are shaking.”
It went to overtime when Peete missed a runner in the lane as regulation time expired.
The Aggies came into the tournament on a tear, winning five straight and 10 of 11 down the stretch. They were hoping to repeat a title after winning the tournament on their homecourt to reach the NCAAs for the first time since 1999.
But the WAC, with a No. 20 national conference RPI, is likely to send only the tournament champion to the NCAA tournament after four teams shared the regular-season title for the first time.
That leaves New Mexico State, Nevada and Utah State to make plans for the NIT.
“I’m still a little shell-shocked,” Menzies said.
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