The rematch in Laramie did not disappoint as over 7,000 fans made the trip to Arena Auditorium on Thursday night. After a bitter loss nine days ago in Boise, the Cowboys had their eyes set on taking one step closer to conference supremacy. Boise State was coming off of a six-day break since completing their gauntlet of away games and looking to create separation at the top of the Mountain West standings.
Wyoming took the lead at the start and didn’t relinquish it until the 7:40 mark in the first half. Graham Ike made his presence known early as he bodied Mladen Armus in the paint and continued to show his offensive prowess. The bank was certainly open in Laramie as the Cowboys netted multiple three-pointers off the glass that kept the momentum with the Pokes. The highlight of the first half was the back-and-forth between Boise State head coach Leon Rice and the officiating crew. It was evident that both Jeff Linder and Rice had a bone to pick with the officials as each side was called on some rather “ticky-tack” fouls. The half ended right where it began, both teams knotted up at 28.
The Broncos took the first swing in the second half as they climbed to a five-point lead thanks to perimeter shooting and added minutes from Lucas Milner. The Cowboys responded with their own run and after tying the game once again, went on to extend their lead to seven by the 11:06 mark. The biggest call of the game happened at the 4:23 point when Tyson Degenhart was called for his 5th and final foul. You can look at the replay and form your own opinion, but there didn’t appear to be much contact on the drive by Hunter Maldonado. Despite this, Abu Kigab helped lead the way and with 4:16 left, Boise State had crawled back and deadlocked the game at 57.
This is where a Bronco rises and saves the day…right?
Drake Jeffries, who only finished with five points, hit a crucial three to put the Broncos on their heels at the under 4 media timeout. The Broncos couldn’t find someone to hit the shot, and with Degenhart on the bench and Armus saddled with four fouls, Graham Ike went to work to finish the game off. After an Ike layup pushed the Cowboy lead to five, both teams made a pair of free throws. An unsuccessful attempt at a steal iced the game and Jeramiah Oden nailed both free throws for good measure.
Wyoming made the proper adjustments from their loss at ExtraMile Arena and one thing stood out. They kept feeding Graham Ike the ball during his time on the floor and he finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds. Hunter Maldonado showed his veteran style as he contributed 16 points, seven assists, and four rebounds. Jeramiah Oden was the cog in the wheel that Wyoming needed to win this game as he proved to be an additional threat that Boise State couldn’t ignore. He finished with 13 points, drilling two shots from downtown.
The hiccups that the Broncos were able to overcome during their winning streak showed Thursday, but this time there was no remedy. Only two players for Boise State reached double figures, Abu Kigab and Tyson Degenhart. Kigab finished with 26 points and a solid rate from the charity stripe, going 9-11. Degenhart had 13 points and went 50 percent from beyond the arc, capitalizing on three triples. Mladen Armus and Emmanuel Akot had a minimal impact on the game, scoring a combined five points.
No, the sky isn’t falling for Boise State. Anyone who thought that this team could go undefeated in conference play hasn’t been watching Mountain West basketball this year. This is arguably the best year the conference has had since 2013. The Mountain West sent five teams that year to the NCAA tournament. Every night is a dogfight and teams such as Utah State, UNLV, Fresno State, and even Air Force are battling against what is considered the top of the conference.
Wyoming heads to Fresno on Sunday, February 6th, to take on the Bulldogs in what should be an amazing battle between big men Orlando Robinson and Graham Ike. That game is scheduled for 5:00 MST (4:00 PST) and will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).
As for the Broncos, it is a quick break as they come back to Boise and play San Jose State today, February 5th. The game is slated for 4:00 MST (3:00 PST) and will be streamed on the Mountain West Network.