The heavyweight fight in Boise lived up to expectations with Boise State defeating Wyoming 65-62. Wyoming’s high-octane offense collided with Boise State’s stifling defense in a battle of styles. Both teams wanted to make a statement to the rest of the Mountain West that they are the team to beat as we near the last month of the regular season.
It was a low-scoring affair to start out the game as each team tried to find their rhythm. Wyoming’s Graham Ike was a presence in the paint, but Mladen Armus held his own throughout the first half. Ike still managed to score 12 points heading into the half, making tough hook shots and mid-range fadeaways that were heavily contested. The biggest storyline in the first half for the Broncos was Marcus Shaver’s ankle injury with 3:01 left to go. He sat out the remainder of the first half, but played in the second.
Max Rice continues to slowly break out of his season-long slump. He scored five points as the half came to a close and set up Boise State to deliver a sizable blow with seconds to go. Lucas Milner made a steal and passed the ball up in transition to Pavle Kuzmanovic with a chance to extend the Bronco lead to ten. Kuzmanovic, instead, had a cross-court pass stolen and taken for a four-point swing. At the half, the game was still in reach for Wyoming, down 30-24.
The turning point in the game was Mladen Armus, who had two fouls in the first half, committing two fouls within four seconds. These fouls occurred with over 17 minutes left in the game, forcing Leon Rice to sit Armus until the under four minute media timeout. During this time, Boise attempted to have Milner guard Ike one-on-one and have help come from the weakside, but neither worked. The responsibility of slowing down Ike was placed on Tyson Degenhart’s shoulders, and he delivered. Others, including sharpshooter Drake Jeffries and leader Hunter Maldonado, made their presence felt as the Cowboys erased an 11-point deficit.
Both teams had a series of runs before the Broncos took a double-digit lead with under seven minutes left, thanks to the perimeter shooting of Naje Smith. Maldonado showed why he will be a Mountain West 1st team selection as he willed the Cowboys back to a one-possession game. Jeffries capped off a Wyoming resurgence by nailing a corner three and getting contact for a four-point play. At this point, the crowd at ExtraMile Arena was getting antsy and with Marcus Shaver hobbled, the Broncos would need someone else to step up.
Enter, Abu Kigab.
Kigab would tie the game at 60, followed by taking a charge against Maldonado to give the Broncos a shot at retaking the lead. He drew another foul on Maldonado and converted both free throws to make it a two-point game. After another Bronco stop, Kigab forced his way to the line once again, only converting one of two. The game felt over, but a costly 5th foul on Kigab kept the door cracked open for the Cowboys. Two free throws later, Max Rice was intentionally fouled and only needed to make one free throw to ice the game. Both clanged off the rim and kept the lead at three. Wyoming took their last timeout with two seconds left and drew up a nearly perfect play. Hunter Maldonado received a lofty pass and flung the ball over to Drake Jeffries, who put up an off-balance shot and came up wide right as the buzzer sounded.
Statistically, Wyoming narrowly led in nearly every category. They had a trio of players reach double figures. Graham Ike led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds. Hunter Maldonado had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Drake Jeffries contributed 12 points, nine of them coming from downtown. Wyoming will take on Air Force this Friday in Colorado Springs as they look to get back in the win column.
Boise State overcame early foul trouble and a key injury to continue their winning ways, notching their school record-tying 13th straight win. While Abu Kigab led the way at the end with 18 total points, Tyson Degenhart made impacts on both sides of the floor, finishing with 14 points and four rebounds. The free throw shooting continues to improve, going 13 of 18 from the charity stripe.
Looking ahead, Boise State has another Quad 1 game on Friday as they head to the San Joaquin Valley to take on Fresno State, who has a 9-0 record at home this season. Boise State can break the school record for the longest winning streak in program history with a 14th consecutive win. The game is slated for 8:00 PST (9:00 MST) and will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).