With weary legs and only one day of rest after escaping Air Force on Tuesday, Boise State found a way to come up with the road win 62-59. With this, the Broncos maintain their hot streak of 11 wins in a row and hold their spot at the top of the conference standings (14-4, 5-0). Utah St (10-9, 1-5) continues a run of heartbreaking losses to the top teams in the Mountain West, losing by a combined 17 points in their last four games.
The game played out similar to a boxing match, one team striking a blow, followed by a response moments later. Utah State led at the half 30-24, and Boise State’s shooting woes appeared to have showed up at the wrong time. A slow start to the second half was eradicated for Boise State as they closed the gap to one possession at the 17:06 mark. It would remain that way the rest of the game, tension building with each miss and foul call. Justin Bean, who finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season, showed the veteran leadership that he is known for by taking game-shifting charges and making shots when they were desperately needed.
Mladen Armus had his most impactful game of the year while keeping the Broncos within striking distance throughout the course of the game, finishing with 22 points and 19 rebounds. Abu Kigab and Emmanuel Akot took responsibility for the scoring beyond the paint, getting 15 points and 11 points, respectively. Akot hit a game-saving three with 51 seconds left to knot the game back up at 59, placing a hush amongst the crowd at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum Center. Bean came up short on the following possession, leaving the door open for a Bronco hero to step up. Leon Rice elected to not take a timeout and trust his players to make a play. Marcus Shaver Jr. took the opportunity and sank a three from the top of the arc on an iso action, only allowing 1.7 seconds left for a desperation hail-mary pass that was intercepted by Kigab. This was Shaver’s first and only basket of the game, going 0-10 during the prior 39 minutes of play.
Going forward, Utah State is glad to have RJ Eytle-Rock back in the lineup from injury as he was the only Aggie other than Bean that reached double figures, accounting for 14 points. They are still without their sharpshooter, Brock Miller, due to a back injury. Utah State will have a few days to rest before having to face Mountain West power San Diego State on Wednesday, January 26th in Logan.
As for Boise State, the defense continues their dominant ways, ranking 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom. The free-throw shooting, however, continues to be a black eye as the Broncos shot 5-15 from the line for a measly 33%. They will have to conjure up their best game of the season if they want to return to Boise with a win.
The Broncos will look to extend their winning streak to 12 on Saturday as they clash with San Diego State at Viejas Arena. The game is scheduled for 6:30 PST (7:30 MST) and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.