BOISE — It was a game that Boise State women's basketball coach Gordy Presnell said beforehand couldn't hurt the Broncos this season, only help them with a win.
That doesn't mean it wasn't a painful loss.
The Broncos went toe-to-toe with one of the top mid-majors in the nation before a Riley Lupfer 3-point shot rimmed out at the buzzer as Missouri State came away with a 72-69 win Sunday in the Preseason WNIT Quarterfinal at ExtraMile Arena.
“They did go to the Sweet 16 last year and they are a good team, but this is a stepping stone for us,” said Mallory McGwire, who nearly willed the Broncos to victory with a 19-point, 17-rebound performance. “I know it's kind of a setback, but I think this just gives us more momentum with whoever our next high-seeded team is that we play.”
The Broncos (2-1) and Bears (3-0), who opened the season with a win against No. 23 Minnesota, traded the lead nine times and were nearly identical in field goals made (28-27 Missouri State) and rebounds (37-35 Missouri State). But Brice Calip had 17 points to lead four Bears in double figures as Missouri State moved on to the Preseason WNIT semifinals, where it will face Oklahoma.
Boise State will play UAB at 3 p.m. MST Friday in a WNIT consolation game.
“We're going to give them the day off (Monday), then get back at it on Tuesday,” Presnell said. “We got some big opponents coming in. The part we have to learn from these guys, it seem like they just grind on you. They keep going and going and going and they don't have too many empty possessions. They either get a good shot whether they make it or not, but they continue to execute. We have to get to that point.”
Boise State got out to a fast start thanks to three quick 3-pointers to put the Broncos ahead 9-4. Lupfer scored Boise State's first 11 points and 14 of its first 16, but went cold after hitting her fourth three-pointer of the game with 2:37 left in the first quarter. Lupfer didn't hit another field goal until the final minute of the game, missing five straight 3-pointers, and finished with 18 points.
“I kind of went cold, and I can't have that,” Lupfer said. “The team can't have that.”
But with their top shooter shut down, the Broncos turned to McGwire, the transfer from the University of Oregon who recorded her first double-double as a Bronco. In just the second half alone, McGwire would have had a double-double, with 15 of her points and 12 of her rebounds coming in the final 20 minutes.
“That's what so special about this team, we have so much talent,” said Lupfer. “If you want to double me, then okay, Mal(lory) will go out. If you want to double Mal, we have guards on the 3-point line who can hit it. Pick your poison.”
Boise State trailed 38-31 entering the second half, but McGwire hit a 3-pointer to pull Boise State within 42-40. A'Shanti Coleman then hit two free throws and another basket to give the Broncos a 44-42 lead. After the Broncos fell behind 58-52 at the end of the third, Coleman opened the scoring on a layup off a Ellie Woerner steal, then had a defensive rebound and a basket on the other end to cut the lead to two. Her offensive rebound and put-back tied the game at 60 with six minutes left in the game.
“It's either they have to go with Riley, or they have to go with me, and then they leave somebody open,” McGwire said. “That's why we stuck with the pick and roll with me and Riley. I think we have a really good inside-outside game and that will get us super far this season.”
The Broncos trailed 69-66 when McGwire pulled down a defensive rebound with under 30 seconds left. But a pass out to Jayde Christopher was errant and went out of bounds, giving the ball back to the Bears with 24 seconds on the clock. Emily Gartner made one of two ensuing free throws to extend the lead to four.
“I just wanted to get it out on a run and go, but I guess there was a little miscommunication,” McGwire said. “That's my fault. I just got to slow it down a little bit. I know there's still a lot of time on the clock. 24 seconds is a long time.”
Lupfer made a 3-pointer to cut the lead back down to one, but couldn't do it again after Mya Bhinhar hit two free throws with seven seconds left. Lupfer got a look between two Missouri State defenders, but the ball hit off the left side of the rim and then off the back of it before falling no good.
“I know they're a great team, we would have liked to have won, but I think it will make us better,” Presnell said. “I think there's a lot we can learn from it. It's certainly not a moral victory, we thought we could win and we thought we could advance in this tournament. But overall, I thought we played pretty hard.”