BOISE, Idaho – Boise State coach Leon Rice isn't about to let his young team get down after a disappointing loss to No. 19 New Mexico.
The Broncos played well and battled into overtime before the Lobos pulled away in the final 5 minutes for a 79-74 victory. The defeat snapped the Broncos' seven-game winning streak, was the first home loss of the season and marked the third straight loss to New Mexico (16-2, 3-0 Mountain West Conference) since the Broncos joined the league a year ago.
"Our guys are devastated. They battled their tails off and wanted this one really bad," Rice said. "But we can't hang our heads. We've got to wipe this one off. We've got to really be able to flip the switch."
Now, Boise State (13-3, 1-1) needs to regroup in time for hitting the road Saturday to play Air Force.
Derrick Marks, who returned after serving a one-game suspension, led all scorers with 27 points. Four other Broncos scored in double figures and Boise State shot better than the Lobos from the field and behind the 3-point arc.
Tony Snell, despite not feeling well, led the Lobos with 22 points.
"We were just trying to get him healthy . just to get him ready and having a chance was amazing," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "I think our team feeds off that kind of toughness."
The Lobos did, beating a scrappy Boise State team in a hostile environment to win their third straight game.
Snell was 7 of 12 from the field, including hitting 5 of 7 of his 3-point attempts. His point total is the highest since he put up 27 points against George Mason on Nov. 18. For Snell, the performance was more about being aggressive than overcoming illness.
"It's just something that I've got to learn to be aggressive every game," he said. "I know it's conference time, and I'm trying to get another ring. That's my main focus. If I want to get another ring, I've got to play hard every game."
The Lobos got 15 points from Hugh Greenwood and 11 points from Kendall Williams, who returned after serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules.
Greenwood sent the game into overtime when he took advantage of a lapse by Boise State on defense and drove a wide-open lane for a layup, tying the score at 63 with 54 seconds left.
In overtime, the Lobos dominated defensively, forcing turnovers and bad Broncos shots. Snell and Greenwood combined for 9 of the Lobos' 16 points in overtime, and Snell's baseline jumper with 2:25 put the Lobos up 71-66, a shot that essentially slammed the door in a game with 13 ties and just as many lead changes.
Ryan Watkins and Mikey Thompson both scored 12 points for the Lobos and Jeff Elorriaga chipped in 11.
"We're not going to look back," Rice said. "This league is going to be about these kinds of games. It's the team that can recover the quickest, recover from wins and losses. Every game is going to be like this."
Boise State led most of the second half and at one time led by nine points in the first half. The Broncos outshot the Lobos, hitting 43.1 percent from the field and 45 percent of its 3-point attempts. The Lobos shot 40.4 percent and made 42.9 percent from behind the arc.
But the Broncos struggled holding on to the ball, turning it over 16 times and New Mexico had nine steals. But the Lobos were also the better team from the free throw line, hitting 77.4 percent compared to 71.4 percent for the Broncos.
"They outscored us from the line by nine, and that's a big difference in a game like this," Rice said.
New Mexico was forced to play without center Alex Kirk early in the second half. Kirk, the Lobos' second-leading scorer and best rebounder, picked up his third foul with 18:52 to go and went to the bench. The Broncos, much smaller at nearly every position, got a lift from 6-foot-9 center Ryan Watkins on the ensuing possession when he scored on a putback to give the Broncos a 41-37 lead.
The teams traded baskets over the next 7 minutes, and when Kirk returned he and played side-by-side with 6-9 forward Cameron Bairstow as the Lobos sought to take advantage of the size difference.
Kirk, averaging 12.5 points per game, struggled offensively ending up with 10 points and seven rebounds. But he hit four free throws in overtime before fouling out with 2:09 left and the Lobos leading 71-66.