SAN DIEGO (AP) — Trailing by nine points with 1:40 to go in front of a madhouse crowd didn’t exactly have the Boise State Broncos thinking about a crazy comeback.
That’s what they got, though, when the Aztecs started missing free throws and Nick Duncan popped two 3-pointers.
BSU scored the game’s final 12 points, including the two 3s by Duncan, to overcome a nine-point deficit and stun the Mountain West Conference champion Aztecs 66-63 on Saturday.
The Broncos pulled off the upset in large part because SDSU missed seven straight frees, and it did it without James Webb III, their leading scorer and rebounder, who was diagnosed with a sprained MCL in his right knee on Thursday.
"College basketball is crazy," coach Leon Rice said. "How do you explain that, that we win that game? We’ve had a crazy month, ups and downs. But the thing I’ve kind of held onto with these guys is, `Guys, we’re playing good basketball, sometimes great basketball. If you keep plugging away, good things happen.’ Then we get a bad break with James being out and we’re like nobody gave us a chance coming in here without James.
"We felt kind of dead and buried, but the best thing about our guys is they just keep fighting, and when you keep fighting, sometimes the ball does bounce your way at the end."
The Aztecs (21-8, 14-2) seemed in control when Trey Kell made the first of two free throws with 1:40 left for a 63-54 lead. He missed the second and SDSU didn’t score again.
"I honestly wasn’t expecting to come back from that," Duncan said. "On the bench we looked down and out but I think it was a few stops on defense and they missed a lot of free throws that definitely let us back into it. They played an awesome game up to that point and we were just lucky to capitalize and come down and hit a few lucky 3s. It was really tough without James Webb out there. We just went out and played as hard as we could for him. A few lucky shots. San Diego played a great game. but we were lucky to hit a few shots in the end."
Mikey Thompson made two free throw before Duncan, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound Australian, made a 3-pointer to pull the Broncos (19-10, 10-6) to 63-59 with 46.2 seconds left. Paris Austin made two three throws and Duncan made another 3-pointer with 22.2 seconds left.
"A little lucky," Duncan said again. "With hit about two 3s in the first 79 minutes and luckily we hit two 3s in the last 48 seconds."
Winston Shepard, Jeremey Hemsley and Kell each missed two free throws for SDSU. Kell turned the ball over with 2.4 seconds left and Anthony Drmic made two free throws.
"I guess you could say it is infectious," Kell said. "You see guys miss their free throws and you hear the crowd get restless as every free throw is missed. It can get in your head, but it is no excuse. If we made our free throws, we would have won the game.
"We had a nine-point lead with one minute to go and to miss those free throws like that, it’s not a good feeling. It’s something we have to get in the gym and work on."
Chandler Hutchison scored 16 points, Duncan had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Paris Austin 11 for the Broncos.
Kell had 17 for SDSU, while Hemsley scored 11 and Zylan Cheatham 10.
The Aztecs clinched the regular-season MWC championship and the top seed in the conference tournament with a 73-61 victory at Wyoming on Wednesday night.
BSU traded leads with the Aztecs until SDSU went on a 12-0 run starting with Kell’s 3-pointer for a 54-52 lead with 6:50 to go. Dakarai Allen made a slam dunk and a shot while falling down, and Kell hit a fallaway jumper. Kell was fouled while taking a 3-pointer and made the final two of three free throws. He was fouled again with 1:40 left and made the first before missing the second and starting SDSU’s collapse.
The Broncos took advantage of sloppy play by the Aztecs to go on an 11-0 run late in the first half to take a 30-22 lead. Fueled by SDSU turnovers, missed shots and fouls, the Broncos took control with a jump hook by Zach Haney, layups by Chandler Hutchison and Nick Duncan, as well as five free throws.
The Aztecs righted themselves with a 6-0 run to close the half, including Malik Pope’s corner 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make it 30-28. Zylan Cheatham made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute.
Boise State: The Broncos have two won straight in San Diego.
San Diego State: Until Saturday, the Aztecs had won 164 games while leading with five minutes to play.
Boise State hosts Nevada on Wednesday night.
San Diego State is at New Mexico on Tuesday night.