LAS VEGAS – There will be no nervous wait for the Boise State women’s basketball team the next few days. The Broncos made sure to take care of things themselves.
Braydey Hodgins had 16 points and Jayde Christopher had 11 points and six assists and the Broncos locked up a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a 68-51 win over Wyoming in the Mountain West title game Wednesday night at the Thomas and Mack Center.
It’s the third straight Mountain West Tournament title for the Broncos (28-4) and the fourth in the past five years. They become just the second team in league history to win three straight tournament championships.
“I’m just really proud of our players,” Boise State coach Gordy Presnell said. “It’s a great group to be around. I’ve coached for 32 years and it’s the closest-knit group I’ve ever been around ... . I just want to thank all these players that have made my life so great the last three months.”
The Broncos will find out their destination and opponent for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night. Boise State was listed as a No. 12 seed on ESPN’s latest projected NCAA Tournament bracket, playing No. 5 seed Missouri in the Corvallis, Oregon, regional.
Joyce Harrell had 12 points and A’Shanti Coleman added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Broncos, who hit 8 of 14 shots from 3-point range and had a 31-21 rebounding advantage.
Boise State lived up to the preseason hype, finishing as the regular season and tournament champions after being voted as the preseason favorites to win the league. The Broncos improved to 12-1 in the tournament the past four seasons, including nine straight wins.
When the stakes get bigger and the pressure rises, the Broncos continue to somehow keep getting it done.
“I came here my freshman year and lost the first game and I promise I cried more than ever and after that I’ve never lost here,” said senior Marta Hermida, who had eight points. “I said I’m not going to leave here losing. It’s a great feeling.”
Despite a 27-4 record coming in the Broncos probably wouldn’t have landed a spot in the tournament had they not earned the automatic bid. The selection committee typically favors teams from the Power Five conferences over mid-majors, and Presnell said recently that the Broncos needed to win the tournament to get in.
The thought was crazy given Boise State was sitting at No. 42 in the RPI before the game. A team with just five losses being left out of the NCAA Tournament? The Broncos don’t have to worry about it anymore.
“Everyone wanted to talk about ‘you’re on the bubble, you could get in’ but we just focused on the now and tonight was beating Wyoming,” Hodgins said. “We punched our own ticket. We don’t need the outsiders or the doubters who say we shouldn’t be in there despite our record and despite how successful we are. We just had to take care of business by ourselves and punch our own ticket.”
The game was tied at 13 early when the Broncos slowly started to take control. A bucket from Hodgins and a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Coleman gave the Broncos an 18-13 lead after the first quarter, and they upped it to 20-13 on a basket from Hermida early in the second quarter.
Four points from Hermida and a bucket from Harrell upped Boise State’s lead to 29-17 midway through the second quarter, and they led 35-23 at the half.
A Christopher 3-pointer made it 41-27, and Christopher’s nice shake and bake drive and dish to Coleman for a layup made it 45-29. But Christopher was called for a technical for taunting on the play, and Wyoming made both free throws and hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to make it 45-34.
Another 3-pointer from Christopher, two buckets from Hodgins and a basket from Riley Lupfer gave the Broncos their biggest lead of the game at 57-39 after the third quarter.
Wyoming cut the Boise State lead to 11 on two occasions, but Christopher sealed the game with a 30-plus foot 3-point heave as the shot clock was expiring to give the Broncos a 66-50 lead with 2:59 to play.
“She got a technical but I guess she made up for it,” Presnell said.
The Broncos stormed the court in celebration as time expired, and then held the trophy high on stage as they celebrated a program-record 28th win this season.
They took their turn cutting down the nets until Presnell climbed the ladder — something he’s done on this court four times in the past five years — and finished the job. He held the net high as the players and fans cheered loudly.
It was a celebration fans have seen plenty in recent years, but one that never gets old.
The Broncos are dancing yet again.
“We’re 9-0 in this tournament and that’s something we take pride in,” the junior Hodgins said. “We don’t ever want to walk off that floor crying. We want to be crying because we’re happy about what we just accomplished. We’re just happy to be here and be in this position. It’s a great feeling.”