The Boise State Broncos made history Tuesday.
For the first time since it joined the Mountain West Conference prior to the 2011-12 season, Boise State clinched its first outright Mountain West regular season title, holding off the Nevada Wolf Pack 73-67.
Though the Pack — who have now lost nine of their last 12 games — canned half of their field goal tries against Boise’s top-20 defense, Boise State forced 19 (!) turnovers and corralled a season-high 13 steals.
Nevada, who trailed by as few as one (multiple times) with under five minutes remaining, had several opportunities to tie or take the lead, but its inability to take care of the rock paired with the fact it missed all five of its final five attempts never allowed them to squeak ahead when it needed to the most.
Kenan Blackshear led Nevada with a a team-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. Will Baker had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting; Warren Washington posted 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocks on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor.
Grant Sherfield (10 points) and Desmond Cambridge (9 points) combined for just 19 points on a combined 38.1 percent shooting. Sherfield added four boards with a team-high six assists while Cambridge corralled four boards on the evening.
The Broncos also netted 50 percent of their attempts, shooting 5-of-20 from the 3-point line and 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Abu Kigab, in his final game at ExtraMile Arena, had 23 points — his third straight 20-point outing — on 9-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Emmanuel Akot and Marcus Shaver both had 16 points apiece; Shaver shot 5-for-14 from the floor while Akot canned six of his 11 shots, including 3-of-6 from distance.
Nevada’s 19 turnovers were the second-most its recorded this season — aside from the 20 it had against Kansas — while Boise’s 13 steals were the most since Nov. 19, 2013 when it had 13 against Seattle. The Broncos converted for 20 points off turnovers while Nevada had 17 (off 14 BSU TOs).
The Wolf Pack had a sloppy beginning to the evening, recording six turnovers in the game’s first six minutes.
Kigab’s contested mid-range jumper gave Boise State the early 16-7 advantage. Back-to-back Washington slams capped an 11-3 Nevada run, cutting it to 19-18 with 9:24 remaining in the opening half, prompting a Bronco timeout.
A pair of Daniel Foster free throws gave Nevada its first lead of the night, though Akot’s three-point play subsequently gave Boise the lead right back mere possessions later. Shaver’s steal-and-score made it 31-27 with 3:13 remaining in the half.
The Pack trailed by six at halftime, despite committing nine more turnovers with its two best players (Sherfield, Cambridge) combining for six points (all from Sherfield).
Nevada shot 55.6 percent in the half compared to just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc; Boise State shot 48.4 percent from distance and 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Armus’ layup spurred an 8-0 Bronco run — widening their lead to 55-44 — their first double digit lead of the night. Despite continuing to turn the rock over, two consecutive Blackshear triples cut it to four — 60-56 — with 6:54 to go.
Cambridge’s make from distance trimmed it to one with 4:45 remaining, but the Pack did not make any of their five attempts thereafter, failing to close yet another game on top.
Next up: Nevada concludes the regular season at home on Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. PT against the San Diego State Aztecs.