The magical season of “firsts” for the Boise State Broncos ended in heartbreak in Dayton Wednesday night.
Dayton guard Jordan Sibert hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to give the Flyers their first lead since early in the half. A Derrick Marks contested 3-pointer was well off the mark as Dayton held on to win 56-55.
It ended the Broncos season in which they won 25 games and were the regular season Mountain West champions.
Marks led all scorers with 23 points, but committed two crucial turnovers in the final minutes.
Leading by two with 1:02 remaining, Marks threw an errant pass that was knocked away by Sibert, who was subsequently fouled. His two free throws tied the game at 53.
With 45 seconds left, Montigo Alford was fouled and knocked down both of his free throws to give the Broncos the lead. After Sibert’s three, Alford missed a layup and Rob Heyer couldn’t connect on a difficult tip-in. Heyer then fouled out after fouling Kendall Pollard. Pollard missed both free throws, giving hope to the Broncos.
Marks took an inbounds pass from near the Broncos bench and faced a double team. With a man in his face, Marks, hoping to draw a foul, leaned into his defender and the ball bounced harmlessly off the backboard as the Broncos lost the perfect opportunity to win their first ever NCAA tournament game.
The Flyers shot 72% in the second half. The Broncos outrebounded the Flyers 33-25, but were hampered at the free throw line, shooting only 50% (5-10).
Nerves and struggles on offense stalled the Broncos early. They fell behind 10-4 early while shooting 2-13 (15%).
Stingy defense kept the Broncos lingering around and they were able to tie the game at ten. Shots began to fall as both teams exchanged baskets and Dayton went ahead 17-15 with six minutes left in the half on two Scoochie Smith free throws.
The Broncos responded with a 14-0 run over the next five minutes. Marks, brushing aside his struggles in the Mountain West tourney, took control as he scored 9 of his points during this run. The Broncos headed to the locker room leading 29-20.
Marks had 11 first-half points to lead all scorers. Alford, playing with high energy, scored 9 points and created shots for others with his drives to the basket. James Webb III had 8 first-half rebounds.
Sibert, Dayton’s leading scorer on the year, only played 9 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. He had five points with Pollard scoring ten to pace the Flyers.
Dayton came out on fire to start the second-half. They made 7 of their first 8 shots and regained the lead at 37-34 on back-to-back Smith threes. Fans on the “neutral” court were rocking as the Flyers seemed to be taking control of the game.
The Broncos responded by going on a 13-1 run by holding the Flyers without a field goal for over seven minutes. Rob Heyer hit a big three during the run and also added another basket by a nice drive to the bucket. A Marks three put the Broncos up 50-41 with 6:36 left to play.
The Broncos missed six of their last seven shots to allow the Flyers back in it before the events of the final moments.
In his final game as a Bronco, Marks also had 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals. He finished his career with 1912 points.
“It’s gonna be pretty hard to take off this jersey for the last time,” Marks said in the post-game press conference.
Webb III had 8 points and 13 rebounds while Alford finished the game with 11 points off the bench.
When asked about his contributions, Alford said that he just wanted to “Try to help my teammates as much as possible.”
Pollard had 17 points to lead the Flyers and Sibert had 13.
In addition to Marks, the loss was also the final game for Boise State seniors Heyer (5 points, 3 reb), Igor Hadziomerovic (3 points, 2 reb), Jake Ness (1 assist), and Joe Hanstad.
With the core players like Webb III, Alford, Nick Duncan, and Mikey Thompson returning next year (and perhaps Anthony Drmic), the future continues to look bright for the Broncos. Though it wasn’t the ideal way to end the season, congratulations on a fantastic season, Boise State Men’s Basketball team.