Women's Basketball

Defense Preserves Win Over Air Force

Box Score Jan. 27, 2018

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BOISE, Idaho - It may not have been the prettiest showing, but the Bronco offense did just enough, and the defense clamped down on Air Force in a 49-46 victory Saturday at Taco Bell Arena.

The defense held Air Force to just 29.1 percent from the field (16-for-55) and forced 16 turnovers, preserving the victory on the final possession by smothering the Falcon ballhandlers and forcing two desperation 3-point attempts that were well off-target.

"I thought we had some really good defensive stops down the stretch of the game. [Air Force] was fatigued too, a little bit, but I thought we got good shot challenges," said Boise State head coach Gordy Presnell.

It bailed out a Bronco offense that committed 20 turnovers, matched its season low with just 17 field goals, and went just 10-for-16 from the line, including 3-for-8 in the final quarter. In fact, Boise State went just 1-for-6 from the field over the final 10 minutes, as Marta Hermida's 3-pointer with 8:25 to go would be the Broncos' only field goal over the final 11:40.

Hermida's trey gave the Broncos their largest lead of the game at 47-37, a free throw apiece from Hermida and Joyce Harrell would account for the only remaining Bronco points over the final 8:25. Fortunately, the Bronco defense was up to the task, as, after two free throws from Venessannah Itugbu cut the lead to eight at 47-39 with 7:26 to play, Air Force was held scoreless for the next 3:55. Cortney Porter's layup got the Falcons to within six at 47-41, but a minute later Harrell hit one of two from the line to get the Bronco lead back to seven at 48-41.

Three more free throws between the teams made it 49-43 with 40 seconds to play before Air Force made it a one-possession game 15 seconds later. Porter went up and finished a layup while drawing a foul on Shalen Shaw, and made the bonus to make it 49-46. Hermida would miss both free throws at the other end after an Air Force foul with 21.0 seconds on the clock, allowing the Falcons to call timeout and advance the ball with a chance to tie. However, the Bronco defense crowded the arc, forcing misses from Emily Conroe and Kaelin Immel in the final seconds, allowing Boise State to escape with the win.

"I think we locked in on defense. We were just really communicating to each other, and we really didn't want them to get that shot," Shaw said.

Riley Lupfer led the Broncos with 14 points, hitting four 3-pointers to bring her season total to 78, just three off Abby Vaughan's program single-season record of 81, set in 2002-03. Lupfer, whose 78 treys this season are currently the third-most in Bronco single-season history, also broke the program's career top 10 for 3-pointers made, as her tally of 134 moves her ahead of Angie Evans (1990-94) for 10th.

It was Lupfer's long-range bombs in the third quarter that helped ground Air Force and pull Boise State far enough ahead. The Spokane, Wash. native hit a trio of treys in the period as the Broncos stretched a two-point halftime lead into a nine-point advantage at 43-34 by the end of the frame. With the Broncos hanging on to a slim 34-33 lead, Lupfer's trey made it a four-point game with 4:54 left in the quarter, then she hit once again to make it 40-33 2:34 later. An A'Shanti Coleman layup and a Harrell free throw would help get the lead to nine.

Shaw, who finished the game with nine points and six rebounds, helped the Broncos overcome a sluggish first quarter as her three-point play five minutes before halftime put the Broncos in front, 21-19, after a 13-2 Air Force run to end the first quarter erased an early 10-2 Bronco advantage.

Conroe led Air Force with 11 points, going 3-for-6 from behind the arc. Itugbu and Dee Bennett finished with eight points apiece, while the Bronco defense did well to limit Immel, the Falcons' leading scorer and one of the top 3-point shooters in the Mountain West, to just seven points on 3-of-20 shooting, including a 1-for-10 mark from deep.

Boise State will have its first bye of the conference season this Wednesday before returning to action next Saturday (Feb. 3) at UNLV. Tip in Vegas is scheduled for 4 p.m. MT at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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