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Boise State Survives Quarterfinal Matchup with Nevada 71-69

Emmanuel Akot led the charge and carries the Broncos to the semifinals.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

This game marked the first of four quarterfinals, and it did not disappoint. Boise State was looking to exorcise their demons in the Mountain West tournament. Nevada hoped to pull off a huge upset and extend any chances of getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

No one was able to jump out to a sizable advantage in the opening minutes as both offenses looked to settle in. Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge Jr. combined for 12 of Nevada’s first 15 points as the Wolfpack started hot from the field. Warren Washington helped propel Nevada to an eight point lead with 9:46 to go, the largest margin to that point. The Broncos immediately responded with a game-changing 14-0 run over the course of five minutes. Boise State took the lead into the half after a slow start, up 38-33.

After a great scoring effort by Emmanuel Akot in the first half, Marcus Shaver Jr. took the reins despite recently battling an illness before traveling to Las Vegas. Shaver scored nine points through the first ten minutes of the second stanza. By the 8:52 mark, Boise State had created separation and was leading by a game-high 12 points. Steve Alford’s crew slowly chipped away though, finding themselves within three with just over four minutes left. After some back and forth, Nevada’s Cambridge snagged an offensive rebound and converted a putback, bringing them to within two with 90 seconds to go.

Empty possessions by both clubs led to Nevada having one final opportunity to tie or win the game. In transition, Kenan Blackshear was open on the right wing with six seconds remaining. Blackshear went up for the three and the upset. The shot was too strong and ricocheted off the iron.

Final.

Boise State 71 - Nevada 69.

The Wolfpack came up short despite the effort of Sherfield, Cambridge, and big man Warren Washington. Sherfield ended up with 25 points and shot 50 percent from the field. Cambridge contributed three triples and collected 16 points in what might be his last showing on the Mountain West stage. Washington was a menace in the paint, adding 13 points and grabbing five rebounds. The Wolfpack didn’t shoot efficiently from the floor, totaling 45 percent and only 29 percent from downtown.

Boise State had a trio of players that combined for 48 of the Broncos’ 71 points. Emmanuel Akot went to town in the first half and finished with 22 points and shot four of eight from beyond the arc. Marcus Shaver Jr. started off rusty in the opening minutes, but he found his rhythm over the course of the game and peaked at 15 points and a scrappy eight rebounds. Abu Kigab played a variety of roles, ending the game with a fruitful stat line of 11 points, six assists, and four rebounds. The Broncos shot 50 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. Free throw shooting was not of concern as they shot 13 of 17 from the line, good for 76 percent. 16 turnovers is far too many for Boise State if they look to make the championship game on Saturday.

A surprise run in the conference tournament was not in the cards for Nevada this year. Steve Alford will look to solidify a supporting cast around Grant Sherfield as he enters his senior year. They have had some good luck with the transfer portal, and it will be interesting to see if that is where they look to add reinforcements. After being projected to finish third in the conference, the Wolfpack will look to return to their winning ways and bounce back next year.

As for Boise State, they avoided an early exit that has haunted them in past seasons. After Wyoming’s narrow escape against UNLV, the Broncos will take on the Cowboys tomorrow. Boise State split the season series with both teams winning at home. Wins in the next two days would improve NCAA tournament seeding and potentially lift the Broncos above the dreaded eight-nine range. The semifinal between Boise State and Wyoming is slated for 7:30 MST and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.