Leon Rice could hardly believe his eyes. Marcus Shaver Jr. was open.
Shot fake. Side step. Swish.
Another clutch 3-pointer from Shaver sent the game to overtime, and the Boise State men’s basketball team emerged from Save Mart Center with a school record 14th consecutive victory on Friday night over Fresno State in California.
With the 68-63 victory, the Broncos (17-4) have now polished off the months of December and January unbeaten and sit atop the Mountain West with a league record of 8-0.
“Man, we came to life down the stretch, and it’s impressive what these guys are doing,” Rice said. “I’m just glad to be along for this ride. This has been amazing.”
Rice and Boise State assistant coach Tim Duryea drew up the out-of-bounds play during a timeout with 4.9 seconds left in regulation. The Broncos didn’t think Fresno State would allow Shaver to get the ball, as the redshirt senior had already knocked down two game-winners this season.
“It’s crazy to think they’re gonna let Shaver catch the ball. We’re not crazy,” Rice said. “So just in case, have Tyson (Degenhart) be the second option. Sure enough, these guys executed it so well. We drew it up for the first time on that white board, and we were taking a deep corner. That’s rough. That’s a tough place to inbound the ball, and there was no panic to ‘em.”
The Broncos watched in amazement as redshirt junior Max Rice came off a screen and broke toward the ball, drawing two defenders with him. Then Shaver rounded a Degenhart screen in the opposite direction and just had to shake a single defender to secure the open look.
Leon Rice described redshirt senior Emmanuel Akot’s overhead pass to Shaver on the play a “frozen rope.”
“He’s the most clutch human ever in the history of the world,” Akot said of Shaver. “Marcus, he’s a really even-keeled person. He really works hard on his game. He’s a world-class shooter, and we believe in him and he believes in himself, so we know in those clutch moments he’s going to deliver for us.”
Shaver’s 3-pointer with 1 second left tied the score at 53. Carrying that momentum, the Broncos then started the 5-minute overtime period with an 8-0 run. Degenhart drew a pair of charges from Fresno State 7-footer Orlando Robinson — the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and rebounder — the second of which sent Robinson to the bench with his fifth foul and 3:14 remaining in OT.
Fresno State rallied and tied it at 61 on a three-point play from Jordan Campbell with 1:26 remaining, but the Broncos didn’t flinch. Fifth-year senior Abu Kigab made a pair of free throws after drawing a foul on a layup to put Boise State up 63-61, and Akot sank his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a 66-61 lead with 25.3 seconds left.
Fresno State’s Isaiah Hill converted a layup with 12 seconds on the clock, and the Bulldogs were forced to foul, sending Degenhart to the free-throw line. The true freshman sank both attempts for the final margin.
“The secret sauce in my opinion doesn’t have a lot to do with basketball,” Akot said. “It’s the togetherness aspect. We’ve built such a tight relationship with one another and we just go out every single day and we play for each other. Not a lot of teams do that in the country, so I think just our togetherness is what’s really separating us.”
Akot led four Broncos in double figures with 16 points, including a 5-for-9 performance from 3-point range, and he also pulled down seven rebounds and dished out five assists while committing two turnovers in 40 minutes on the court. Shaver had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Max Rice had his best outing of the season with 13 points, including three 3-pointers.
Kigab added 11 points, and Degenhart totaled eight points and five rebounds while drawing four charges.
Boise State will now get some much deserved rest after playing seven games in 17 days. The Broncos don’t play again until Thursday when they travel to Laramie, Wyoming, to play the Cowboys. Boise State has already made the trip to Arena-Auditorium once this season, but the game was called off at the last minute because of COVID-19 concerns within the Broncos’ program.
“We’ve got to get home and we’ve got to get rested. We’ve got to get our bodies right,” Leon Rice said. “We’ve got a lot to do to get healthy and to get energized. It’s the same old soup, just reheated. We’re out of the frying pan, back into the fire for another road game against one of the best teams in the league.”
BOISE ST. 68, FRESNO ST. 63 (OT)
BOISE ST. (17-4, 8-0 MW): Armus 0-1 0-0 0, Degenhart 2-8 2-2 8, Kigab 4-12 2-2 11, Akot 5-12 1-2 16, Shaver 5-12 3-4 14, Rice 5-9 0-0 13, N.Smith 2-3 0-0 6, Kuzmanovic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 8-10 68.
FRESNO ST. (14-6, 4-3 MW): Robinson 9-15 1-1 21, Campbell 4-9 3-3 11, Hill 3-10 0-0 8, Holland 3-9 2-2 8, Colimerio 5-5 0-0 11, Stroud 2-6 0-0 4, Vaihola 0-0 0-0 0, Yap 0-4 0-0 0, Whitaker 0-1 0-0 0, Meah 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 6-6 63.
Halftime—Boise St. 29-25. 3-Point Goals—Boise St. 14-31 (Akot 5-9, Rice 3-6, N.Smith 2-3, Degenhart 2-4, Shaver 1-3, Kigab 1-6), Fresno St. 5-17 (Robinson 2-3, Hill 2-5, Colimerio 1-1, Campbell 0-1, Whitaker 0-1, Yap 0-1, Stroud 0-2, Holland 0-3). Fouled Out—Armus, Robinson. Rebounds—Boise St. 27 (Akot 7), Fresno St. 36 (Holland, Colimerio 10). Assists—Boise St. 12 (Akot 5), Fresno St. 8 (Holland 2). Total Fouls—Boise St. 11, Fresno St. 16.