BOISE, Idaho -- Mark Sanchez and a tenacious defense helped Boise State bring an end to the nation's longest winning streak.
Sanchez scored 20 points and the Broncos forced 19 turnovers in a 66-56 victory Saturday night that stopped Utah State's (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) winning streak at 19 games.The Aggies (24-2, 12-1 Western Athletic Conference) missed out on a chance to set the school record for consecutive wins and clinch the conference title outright.The difference was the intensity and hustle by Boise State (17-7, 7-4) on both ends of the court in the second half, thanks to a fiery locker room pep talk at the half."Coach Graham told us we always come out flat in the second half," Bronco guard Anthony Thomas said. "So this time we wanted to come out and be aggressive. We knew Utah State wasn't going to lay down."Thomas had 18 points and three of Boise State's nine steals. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second half, his second at 17:43 put the Broncos up 35-26. Minutes later, Sanchez drove to the basket and sank a one-hander to put Boise State up by 12, the biggest margin of the game.Boise State, the defending WAC champs, shot 48.1 percent in the second half, and finished the game shooting 41.8 percent. Ike Okoye and Paul Noonan each chipped in nine points apiece to help the Broncos, winners of three of the last four, avenge a Jan. 17 loss at Utah State.The Aggies, the WAC's most potent offense at 72.4 points per game, led most of the first half, but failed to get any closer than six in the second.After shooting 42.3 percent in the first half, Utah State's shooters cooled in the second, going 8-for-26 and 3-for-9 from behind the 3-point arc. Nineteen turnovers doubled Utah State's season average, and the 56 points is the second-lowest total for a game this season."We got totally outplayed," said coach Stew Morrill, whose team can claim the league title Feb. 26 against Hawaii. "I congratulated our guys on winning 19 straight. I thought we had to get beat sometime. But I didn't see this coming."Gary Wilkinson and Jared Quayle each had 12 points to lead Utah State. Pooh Williams added 10, all coming in the first half.In the second half, the Broncos kept the Aggies defense in check by double teaming Wilkinson every time he touched the ball. Wilkinson, the league's second-leading scorer, never got into a rhythm and turned the ball over four times.But he sank a long jumper at the 3:50 mark to cut the lead to 57-48. Minutes later, the Aggies pulled within 60-54 when Brady Jardine scored on a layup off a missed free throw.But the Broncos held on in the final minutes thanks to free-throw shooting -- they went 7-for-8 from the line in the final two minutes -- and a defense that stymied the Aggies' best scorers.Bronco coach Greg Graham praised his team's defense and paused several moments when asked if it was the best overall defensive performance in his seven years in Boise."Well it was as good as any," Graham said. "To hold them to 36 percent shooting is a major effort on our guys on the defensive end."