The Utah State women’s basketball team was able to gain revenge against Boise State, thanks to a big defensive effort by the Aggies and a last second buzzer-beating shot.
Earlier this season, the Aggies made a trip to Boise where they were humiliated by the Broncos, who won comfortably by a score of 76-56. Today in Logan, however, the Broncos were anything but comfortable as they faced off for a second time versus Utah State.
Boise State, looking to duplicate the earlier season contest’s results and earn another blowout victory, looked to be on track to do exactly that in the first half. Jumping out to a quick 16-8 lead, the Broncos got 57 percent of their first half shots to fall as they lead throughout the entire first half and took the locker room at halftime with a 42-32 lead.
But though the Aggies faced a ten-point deficit at halftime, they weren’t going down without a fight.
The Aggies came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, recording 3 quick steals to spark an 8-0 run. The USU defense took over in the third quarter, forcing 12 turnovers by the Broncos, and holding the highest scoring offense in the Mountain West to just two third-quarter points.
“Incredible third quarter, that was the difference in the game,” said Aggie head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “We haven’t played a good third quarter all year and we’ve been talking about that a lot.”
Freshman guard Eliza West, who contributed nine points and a career-high nine assists, agreed.
“For them to score two points, I think that’s crazy,” she said. “That just is amazing for our defense, it shows how great we can be when we talk and have eachother’s backs.”
Spanning from the end of the second quarter to mid-way through the fourth, Utah State rode a 30-5 to gain an eventual 12 point lead over the Broncos.
Despite trailing 59-47 with just under four minutes remaining in the game, Boise State remained resilient. The Broncos went on a 12-2 run to bring themselves within just one possession of the Aggies before sophomore guard Rachel Brewster nailed a long two-point jump shot to help build a cushion.
Boise State, with an opportunity to tie-up the game with 15 seconds left, drew a foul on a three-point shot to send the team’s leading scorer senior guard Brooke Pahukoa to the free throw line. With the pressure of the game on the line, Pahukoa hit all three shots to tie the game up.
Hoping to avoid overtime, the Aggies had one final chance to win the game.
Eliza West brought the ball up the floor, and driving to the hoop drew defenders in to allow a wide open corner three from fellow freshman guard Olivia West. The shot was just long, ricocheting off the rim to sophomore center Deja Mason who fought for the rebound just outside of the key. With the clock expiring, Mason threw the ball up to the hoop and nailed a nothing-but-net, game-winning shot for the Aggies.
“Deja’s shot was in slow motion,” Brewster said. “I was right under the rim and I watched it go in, and it’s just an amazing feeling. This is a huge win.”
Finkbeiner said that though the Aggies got the shot that they wanted from West, the team was thrilled to get a second opportunity for the win.
“We worked so hard to get that 11 point lead, we worked so hard to beat this really good team, and yet we were wondering if it’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s almost like grace that kind of put that shot in.”
Freshman forward Shannon Dufficy had a big game as well for the Aggies, recording nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists on the way to the win.
With the victory, Utah State improves to 12-11 (5-6) on the season, while Boise State falls to 15-7 (5-6). Utah State will hope to continue and build on its three-game winning streak wednesday night when the Aggies face first-place Mountain West team Colorado State at 7 p.m. at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.